• 2002-02-21
TRAFFICKER JAILED: A Chicago court sentenced a Russian national to nine years in prison on Feb. 13 for forcing five Latvian women to work as strippers in Chicago-area clubs, the Chicago Tribune reported. Alex Mishulovich, 41, pleaded guilty to charges that he helped bring the women to the United States, imprison them in a one-bedroom apartment and threaten to kill them and their families in Latvia if they did not obey his orders. Mishulovich entered the plea two years ago as part of an agreement under which he helped federal authorities convict co-defendant Vadim Gorr. Gorr was sentenced to 21 months in prison on charges of visa fraud for helping get the women into the United States. In its ruling the court accused Mishulovich of being the mastermind of the operation. Mishulovich claimed to have ties to the Chechen mafia, but he denied organizing the scheme. The women were forced to stay in a one-bedroom apartment and not allowed to leave without Mishulovich or one of his partners accompanying them. They worked at least six nights a week at strip clubs in 1996 and 1997. "Not in a million years did I think I would be standing before (this court) facing this kind of time," the Chicago Tribune quoted him as saying during sentencing. "I simply ask for a second chance."

SPRING AHEAD: The Estonian government decided Feb. 19 to return to daylight-saving time, saving travelers in the region the headache of changing clocks three times as they pass through the Baltic countries. Estonia had previously opted not to follow daylight-saving time, contrary to Latvia and European Union countries. Clocks will be turned ahead one hour on the last Sunday of March and turned back on the last Sunday in October. Estonia's previous ruling coalition decided in the spring of 1999 to do away with daylight-saving time. All three Baltic countries did away with it in 2000, but Latvia returned to it last year. An opinion poll taken last year showed Estonians evenly divided on the adoption of daylight-saving time.

NO ENTRY: U.S. immigration officials on Feb. 16 barred a Lithuanian-born Canadian citizen suspected of taking part in Nazi atrocities from boarding a flight in Montreal bound for the state of Florida. An immigration official stopped Juozas Kisielaitis, who appears on a Canada-United States "watch list" of suspected Nazi war criminals, as he was about to board the flight. Kisielaitis previously fled from the United States to Canada when the Office of Special Investigations opened a deportation case against him. The OSI said that Kisielaitis admitted serving in the 12th Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft Battalion, a Nazi-sponsored unit that murdered thousands of Jews. Kisielaitis is the 163rd suspected Nazi collaborator stopped while attempting to enter the United States since 1989, the OSI reported.

DEAF EARS: The Estonian Foreign Ministry will not reply to Russia's seven demands on how it should amend its laws to establish warmer bilateral relations, regarding them as an attempt to test the extent of concessions Estonia is prepared to make. The demands, made by Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Gusarov, range from the granting of citizenship to 20,000 non-citizens a year to closing trials of Stalinist-era agents suspected of deporting Estonians. The demands have cooled hopes among many politicians in Estonia that relations between the two countries would improve, the daily newspaper Postimees wrote. Optimism began to gather strength after news of a possible meeting between the Estonian and Russian presidents. "Now, reading this list of Moscow's wishes, one gets the impression you found in Russia in 1939," an unnamed Estonian policy maker told the paper. Gusarov presented the list of Russian demands verbally to Estonia's Ambassador to Russia Karin Jaani as prerequisites for the development of bilateral ties.

TV ROW: The Latvian Journalists' Union said there was no independent public television in Latvia because politicians were manipulating by deciding whether to grant or withhold subsidies. The statement came after the recent firing of the head of Latvijas Television, Director General Rolands Tjarve. The Latvian National Radio and Television Council dismissed Tjarve because he made questionable advertising deals as head of the network. The council said Tjarve guaranteed a loan under the station's name to an advertiser. The station's financial director and marketing director were also fired. The journalists' union says Tjarve should not have been sacked for the deals, arguing that if state funding were adequate the deals would not have been necessary. It called for LTV journalists to go on strike upon approval of the next national budget if state funding is not increased.

KALININGRAD DILEMMA: Vytautas Landsbergis, the leader of Lithuania's opposition Conservative Party, believes that Lithuania and the European Union should not approve a separate agreement with Russia on the future of Kaliningrad. "Let Russia think about what it should do for its residents in the middle of the EU," Landsbergis told a news conference at the Parliament on Feb. 18. "Russian leaders have all the cards in their hands." Landsbergis told reporters that Lithuanian and EU politicians should not yield to Russia's attempts to thrust the Kaliningrad issue onto them. "I hope Brussels manages to avoid this trap," he noted. Russia has feared that after joining the EU, Kaliningrad's neighbors Lithuania and Poland will introduce visas for the enclave's residents, which could restrict the opportunity to travel through the countries to reach Russia. Lithuania is already obligated to set visa requirements for Kaliningrad residents starting in July 2003. Landsbergis ruled out statements from Russian politicians that the visas would deprive Kaliningraders of the possibility to travel. "We currently offer them the privilege of visa-free travel to Lithuania. It is a gift, not something that we have to do," he said.