West Point student drops out

  • 2001-11-15
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - In 1997 Juris Matusevics, a student from Latvia, enrolled in America's famous military academy West Point in the state of New York. It was agreed that after he finished his four-year education at the academy he would return to his homeland where he would serve five years in the Latvian army. But Matusevics' plans changed when his American girlfriend got pregnant.

This June, just six months before his graduation, Matusevics dropped out of the school and married his girlfriend, with the intention of remaining in the United States. Since he is now married to a U.S. citizen he cannot be made to serve in the Latvian army.

On Nov. 5, a Latvian court ruled in favor of a claim against Matusevics by the Latvian armed forces and he now faces a fine of 2,200 lats ($3,500) for breaching his agreement and not returning to Latvia.

Neither Matusevics nor a defense lawyer was present at any of the court hearings.

Andris Grinvalds, head of the armed forces' legal department, told Baltic News Service that attempts to contact Matusevics had been in vain, but that there was no reason to try and locate the student until the court ruling took effect.

His education at West Point was funded by the U.S. government but his flight, laptop computer and some other items were paid for by the Latvian side. In order to get this money back, the Latvian armed forces filed a law suit against him for more than 3,000 lats and later revised this sum.

This is not the first time the armed forces have gone to court to claim money from students who have studied abroad under the auspices of the armed forces.

"A couple of years ago some 3,000 lats were recovered from another student," said Grinvalds.

Defense Ministry spokesman Janis Podins said he knew Matusevics personally before he moved to the United States in 1997.

"This is not a question about getting the money back but rather a question of moral standards," Podins told The Baltic Times.

The ministry is able to help up to six students a year study abroad, but currently only two are studying in the United States. These are Krists Culkstens, who studies at West Point and will graduate in two years, and Erika Neimane, who will graduate from Colorado Springs Air Force Academy at the same time.