• 2001-11-22
IT WAS REALLY NOTHING: Attending the comedy "Noises Off" in London's West End theater district with Camilla Parker Bowles, Britain's Prince Charles, celebrating his 53rd birthday, made light of the now famous incident in which he was slapped on the face with a carnation by a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Riga while on a tour of the Baltic states on Nov. 8. The remark came after he had blown out a candle on a birthday cake at a fund-raising luncheon and listened to guests sing "Happy Birthday." "If I hear one more joke about being hit in the face with a carnation by a Bolshevik fascist lady, I don't know what I'll do. I'm very glad it's given pleasure to everybody. It's what I'm here for," the prince said. Security police on Nov. 19 sent evidence to the Prosecutor General's Office supporting their claim that Alina Lebedeva of Daugavpils had "endangered the life and health of a senior official" - which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for adults and juveniles alike. A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's office said the office had 10 days in which to charge her or return the case to the police for further work. Charles' office earlier told British media the incident should be viewed as "trivial."

FAMILY REVENGE: The family of a former Russian military officer who has lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights wants to receive from Latvia $400,000 in compensation for alleged violations of their human rights. This is the amount indicated in the documents by lawyers representing the Slivenko family. The European Court of Human Rights hold a hearing in the Slivenko case on Nov. 21. Latvia in its comments to the court pointed out that the Slivenkos were required to leave Latvia under the Latvian-Russian agreement on withdrawal of former Soviet army. At present the Slivenkos - Nikolai, his wife Tatyana and their daughter Karina - live in Kursk, Russia. Tatyana Slivenko said in an interview to Russian television ORT that on her husband's retirement from military service in the mid-1990s the Latvian authorities had taken away the family's documents, searched their apartment and ordered them to leave the country. She said she thought what they had experienced in Riga was a nightmare.

KICKED OUT: Five Lithuanian citizens arrived at Vilnius International Airport on the evening on Nov. 15 after being deported from Great Britain for working there illegally. The residents of Lithuania's second-largest city Kaunas, two males and three females, were arrested by British officials and deported from the UK for working without permission at a vegetable processing factory in the town of Spalding. Four of those deported told Lithuanian border officials they were unemployed and left to find work in Great Britain last year. One said she left Lithuania in August this year. They range in age from 18 to 31. They were allowed to go after questioning. Ten women who worked at a clothes factory in Rodenbach, Germany, were deported the day before. They were arrested by German police and migration service officials. So far this year a total of 3,622 Lithuanian citizens have either been deported or turned back at foreign borders. As was the case last year, Great Britain sent the most Lithuanians home, numbering just under 1,100 people so far this year. The majority were deported for working illegally, or for lacking sufficient funds.

CURE CRISIS: Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors are urging the Lithuanian Parliament and government to pay debts of around $29 million owed by the national healthcare accounting system to drug stores, or, they say, the nation's pharmacies will face a wave of bankruptcies. Speaking at a press conference hosted by Baltic News Service Nov. 15, the director of the Provifama association of drug retail outlets, Janina Urbiene, said if the problem isn't solved the nation's healthcare system's debts to pharmacies for pharmaceuticals partially or wholly subsidized by the Lithuanian state will reach $4.5 million by the end of the year, with financing planned for all of next year grinding to a halt in March. Pharmacists say retail drug outlets that have not received promised compensation from the state healthcare accounting system are borrowing from companies involved in wholesale. Around 100 Lithuanian pharmacies have been hauled into court for debts outstanding to wholesalers. The total number of Lithuanian pharmacies is only around 960.

ENDURANCE: Estonian society has become significantly more tolerant during the past decade, with the biggest change occurring in people's attitudes toward homosexuals and people with AIDS, a survey indicates. Residents' tolerance to homosexuals improved by about a quarter from a poll 10 years ago, said the agency Saar Poll. In the attitude toward people with AIDS, the sea change was almost as big. Such changes are characteristic to all countries, particularly those surrounding the Baltic Sea, the authors of the survey said in their comments. The survey also indicates that Estonian residents have become more tolerant of alcoholics and people of different races. Tolerance is an indicator based on which the growth of a society can be measured, Population Minister Katrin Saks said. Although shortcomings are visible every now and then, society on the whole has become more tolerant, she said.

LEVERAGE: The influential chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma (lower house of Parliament), Dmitry Rogozin, urged in an article that appeared in the Nov. 16 issue of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily to step up lobbying for the cause of Russian communities in the Baltic states and countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. "Russians residing in the near abroad must represent a real political force that will influence the course of Russia's foreign policy vis-a-vis the CIS and Baltic states," he finds. "It's time to establish an influential Russian lobby abroad. Even today we can secure a rise in the status of our compatriots by appointing them honorary consuls of Russia in their countries of residence." With regard to language problems in the CIS and Baltic states, Rogozin writes that teaching a full course of the Russian language and literature in Russian-language schools must be constantly demanded from those countries' governments. "Russia must seek the right to disseminate its intellectual and spiritual wealth among Russian compatriots."