• 2001-10-04
OFF COURSE: Two separate shipping accidents occurred near the Estonian port and capital, Tallinn, within a few hours of each other on the night of Sept. 30-Oct. 1. All the ships involved remained afloat, nobody was injured and no oil pollution was reported. The first accident occurred at about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 30, when the Russian freighter Nikolai Lebedev ran aground near the Kopli Peninsula in the Bay of Tallinn. The cause appears to have been navigational error, said Arvo Veskimets, deputy chief of the Maritime Administration. The rocks in the area were marked in accordance with all requirements, he said. The hull of the 60-meter Nikolai Lebedev was damaged below its waterline and the ship was towed to the docks of Baltic Ship Repairers in Tallinn. The second accident took place in the Bay of Muuga off Tallinn at about 1 a.m., when a maneuvering bunkering vessel, Skorpion, collided with a 127-meter tanker sailing under the British flag, tearing two holes about 25 centimeters long in the hull of the tanker Oderstern above the waterline. Port of Tallinn service director Erik Sakkov said there was no danger of oil escaping into the sea.

HOT BLOODED CRIME: Tallinn City Court on Oct. 1 levied a fine of 106,000 kroons ($6,235) on an Italian citizen, Giovanni Sposato, for having the cars of his ex-girlfriend's parents set on fire. As well as fining the 30-year-old Sicilian, who earlier claimed to be a potential investor in the Estonian state railway, the court sentenced former security guards Artur Aunapu, 28, and Vladislav Melenets, 34, for incitement to arson, handing down a one-year suspended sentence against Aunapu and an eight-month suspended sentence against Melenets. A fourth defendant, 31-year-old Konstantin Laas, received a 15-month suspended sentence for organizing the attack. During the trial which started at the end of last week, Sposato, Aunapu and Melenets pleaded guilty as charged, while Laas denied any wrongdoing. Sposato became well known in Estonia after a talk-show interview, in which he appeared on behalf of a major investment fund interested in buying the Estonian railway company Eesti Raudtee. He boasted he was ready to deliver 1 billion kroons to government ministers' living rooms in cash if necessary. The convicted men have 10 days to appeal against their sentences.

NEW EMBASSIES: If the Latvian government grants the Foreign Ministry 1.5 million lats ($2.42 million), Latvia may open new embassies next year in Ireland, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Japan and Hungary, reported the government's press service. The embassies are to be opened in order of importance, starting with Ireland and ending with Hungary. Latvia is currently the only NATO and EU candidate without an embassy in Ankara, except for Malta and Cyprus. Economic factors also necessitate a Latvian Embassy in Kazakhstan, whose rich natural resources of oil and gas Latvian business people are interested in. Latvia currently has embassies in 26 countries and covers another 18 countries from these premises.

LITERARY FRAGMENT: Latvia's National Library, Riga City Council and the book restoration firm Leipzig ZBF, Sept. 26, signed an agreement on the restoration of a unique 17th-18th century volume kept by the National Library and considered among the most important cultural objects in the world. The book will be restored by German restorer Walter von Sengbusch at a cost from 10s of thousands of Deutsche marks to 1 million Deutsche marks. "This is one of the oldest books in the Baltic Sea states region and is unique from a historic, scientific and other viewpoints," said Sengbusch. The restoration works might take from three weeks to three months, said ZBF director Manfred Andreas. The book contains 95 documents pertaining to such historic figures as Polish King August II, Swedish Queen Ulrika Eleonora and others, said Inara Klekere, the library's spokeswoman. Sengbusch whose family has had links with Riga over several centuries said he had numerous documents of historical importance to Latvia, including seven letters by Garlieb Merkel, an outstanding Enlightenment philosopher of Baltic German descent. He said he was set to restore them and transfer them to Riga.

FROM PRISON TO TIVOLI: Lukiskiu Prison in the center of Vilnius, a large brick monument on the city's skyline built during the czarist era, might become a place for the public to seek lodging, shop and even play roulette, a Lithuanian newspaper reports. Lietuvos Zinios reported Sept. 29 that the famous Vilnius landmark might become a public recreation center, with casinos, hotels and stores if a group of English business people have their way. The British business people presented their plans on a visit to Lithuania several months ago, it said. They propose building a new incarceration facility somewhere in Vilnius' outlying districts to make up for the loss of the current institution which occupies 2 hectares in a prime location. But Lithuanian officials are keeping their mouths shut as negotiations commence and have declined to identify the British company. The prison's director, Aleksandras Davidonis, told the daily he had heard about plans.

COUGHING LITHUANIANS: A surprisingly large number of patients suffering from coughs and nasal congestion are crowding into Lithuanian clinics this fall. The Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas reported Sept. 29 there were just a few cases of colds in early September, but that the trickle had turned to a flood pouring into clinics in major Lithuanian cities. Irena Luneckiene, head of the internal diseases section at the Lukiskiu Clinic in Vilnius, said a viral infection was responsible for the larger number of people seeking treatment recently. Lithuania's flu season usually peaks in December or January, although last year epidemics struck parts of the country in February. More than 400,000 Lithuanian residents suffered acute infection of the airways last year, and another 100,000 got the flu.