• 2001-10-18
MOONSHINE DEATHS STILL RISING: As of Oct. 12, 67 people have died and 19 remain in hospital suffering complications after drinking methyl alcohol in the Estonian counties of Parnumaa and Laanemaa, Estonian police said. In all, a month after the first cases were reported, 111 people were hospitalized with symptoms of methanol poisoning. In police raids triggered by the tragedy two tons of methanol were confiscated, in addition to several tons of ordinary illegal alcohol. The police launched a criminal investigation into the incident and took criminal action against several people, charging them with illegally selling the poisonous liquid.

SMARTENING UP: Latvia may become the first country in the world to have a parliament with an ISO 9001:2000 management quality certificate. Officials are now preparing to introduce the quality management system to improve parliament's performance and make it the first legislative body in the world to get an ISO certificate. Creating appropriate descriptions of jobs and procedures will take more than 18,000 lats ($29,300) from the parliament's budget, reported the parliamentary auditing committee. The Zygon Baltic Consulting company is advising the parliament on how to prepare descriptions of its procedures. The company is helping the parliament create a uniform system for all its regulations, procedures and other documents in order to ensure clear-cut management of operations and exclude any overlapping of functions. The certification will not apply to lawmakers, who are independent in their actions and not subject to any standards. The Bank of Latvia was awarded a similar certificate two years ago.

ROOTING FOR RUSSIA: Delegates to the Russian Compatriots' Congress Oct. 13 in Moscow supported a proposal by the Russian government to set up a permanent organization of Russians residing abroad. "We regard it as absolutely necessary to set up a Russian Foreign Compatriots Congress which would operate permanently, and we are ready to take practical steps to that end," the participants said in a resolution. The congress also welcomed Russia's new policy of more serious cooperation with members of the Russian Diaspora. "We greet Russia's planned strengthening of contacts with compatriots abroad. We are ready to help renovate our historic homeland, by strengthening its political, economic and spiritual potential and increasing its international influence," read the resolution. The Congress of Russian Compatriots Oct. 11-12 in Moscow was attended by 600 delegates representing Russian communities from 47 countries. Those from the Baltic states were among the largest delegations. The Latvian and Estonian delegations each comprised 40 people and the Lithuanian delegation 30 people.

GOING PRIVATE: Alexander Perelygin, an adviser to Moscow's municipal government to whom Estonia and Latvia refused to issue visas because of his secret service background, is to take a back seat at the municipality and assume a management job with Norilskiy Nikel, one of Russia's largest companies. He will keep his title as adviser to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. At the city government Perelygin was responsible for contacts with organizations of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states. Estonia has refused to issue him an entry visa since 1999 and Latvia followed suit in August this year when Perelygin was to head a delegation to Riga's 800th anniversary celebrations. The Moscow municipal government decided to ignore the Riga celebrations as a result. Media reports say the Estonian and Latvian authorities refused Perelygin a visa mainly because he served in senior positions with the KGB until 1993.

NOT SO SUPER SLEUTHS: Tallinn City Court on Oct. 11 handed down suspended sentences to two senior police officers for beating a murder confession out of a suspect. Police superintendents Artur Chulitski, 35, and Arvi Kumm, 40, received suspended sentences of three years in prison with one-year probation for abuse of authority. During the next 12 months both men, one of whom received a Sherlock Holmes Tallinn criminal police officer of the year award a few years ago, must remain under the supervision of a probation officer. They must also pay 1,600 kroons ($93) in compensation and pay their 31-year-old victim, Margus Pavel, 8,000 kroons in legal costs. Both defendants' attorneys said they would appeal and seek their clients' acquittal from all charges. According to the indictment drawn up by the national security police, Pavel was punched, kicked and beaten with truncheons after his detention on the night of Oct. 30, 1999. After several hours of beating, he signed a confession to having shot and killed a taxi driver and a police officer, an incident that received much publicity. Pavel's innocence was later proven after the real perpetrator of the crime was prosecuted.

EMINENT PRIEST PASSES AWAY: One of the Lithuanian Catholic Church's most eminent priests, Monsignor Kazimieras Vasiliauskas, died aged 79 at a Vilnius hospital early on Oct. 14. Vasiliauskas, described as epitomizing tolerance and self-sacrifice, enjoyed wide popularity in Lithuania. A graduate of Vilnius Seminary, he was ordained in 1946. In 1949, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison in Siberia. He returned to Lithuania in 1956 but was soon deported to neighboring Latvia. Vasiliauskas, often called "Lithuania's conscience," had lately worked at several Vilnius churches and the Vilnius Seminary. He was a cavalier of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas 4th grade, and recipient of the Lithuanian Independence Medal and the Concord Fund Award.