LUCKY MAN: Aivaras Stepukonis with the song "Happy You" will represent Lithuania at the Eurovision contest this year. He prefers to be called just Aivaras. He is studying philosophy and theology. Aivaras won the second place in Lithuania's national Eurovision contest. However, band B'Avarija, the first place winner, was disqualified by Eurovision because their song was released before 2002. Lithuanian media reported that the British national contest first place winner was disqualified too because of a "stolen" old song. Lithuanian media also speculate that Latvian representative Marija Naumova's song is just a remake of Ricky Martin's song, but these gossips have not reached the ears of Eurovision. (Baltic News Service)
NARCOTICS INCREASE: The transit of illegal drugs via the Baltic states may grow five to 10 times in coming years, the former head of Interpol's Russian branch said. Vladimir Ovchinsky told BNS he tied the expected increase in drug transportation to the fact that the flow of illegal drugs from Afghanistan and Central Asian countries was subject to less control. Ovchinsky said in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror acts in the United States that NATO has devoted much of its resources on setting up and maintaining bases in Afghanistan but has paid less attention to drug production there and exporting. He said that large quantities of drugs flowing through Central Asian countries and then over Russia's border could not be stopped because Russia's too short of resources to handle it. "This is a very big problem for Russia, but it is an especially big problem for the Baltic states," he said. To address the problems, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia have set up the Baltic Anti-Criminal and Anti-Terrorist Forum. (BNS)
PROTOTYPE: The popular Lithuanian television comedy show "Dviracio Zynios" deemed Estonia's Ambassador to Lithuania Rein Oidekivi "best prototype" at its annual awards ceremony April 1. The comedy program, broadcast each evening across Lithuania on the channel LNK, awarded its annual Golden Onion trophies to those who the creative team felt had caused the most laughs in the country over the previous year. Oidekivi was one of several personalities - mostly Lithuanian politicians - to receive the tongue-in-cheek award. The comedy program regularly features a caricature of the Estonian ambassador to Lithuania known as "Estas" (the Lithuanian word for an Estonian). Estas, who excels in every field, never misses an opportunity to tell Lithuanians they are backward and prone to failure in things like the Eurovision song contest or the Winter Olympics. The Estonian ambassador appeared on stage in person, a hat symbolizing the top of an onion was placed on his head, and he was given the trophy, an ostrich egg on a stand. He presented the hosts of the awards ceremony with four eggs he decorated with the flags of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the European Union. Oidekivi proposed smashing the eggs together to see which one was the strongest. The Estonian diplomat warned that he hadn't bothered to boil the non-Estonian eggs. President Valdas Adamkus received an award "for his four-second contribution to cinematography." The award was for the four seconds of footage NBC broadcast of Adamkus visiting the White House for a behind-the-scenes look at U.S. President George W. Bush. Adamkus' trip had been portrayed as a priceless opportunity to present Lithuania to the American public. This year's "funniest nation" award went to Great Britain because, presenters said, "it cleared our way to the European Union." The country was recognized because of an incident involving two British police officers sent to work as consultants under an EU program and the Office of Special Investigations, a branch of Lithuania's police charged with fighting corruption. The pair made news when they were caught by security cameras urinating on the president's house after a night spent at various Vilnius watering holes.
BURIAL DEBATE: Discussions have started in Lithuania over where to bury the remains of 2,000 soldiers from Napoleon Bonaparte's army found in Vilnius last month. The soldiers were part of Napoleon's army that crossed through Lithuania en route to and from Russia in 1812 and 1813. Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas said March 27 that with permission from the French Embassy the remains could be cremated and buried in the Bernardinai Cemetery in Vilnius. The following day the Cultural Heritage Protection Department issued a press release expressing disapproval of Zuokas' suggestion. The department noted that only famous members of the Vilnius community were buried in Bernardinai. The statement suggested that the French Embassy, the Cultural Heritage Protection Department and the Vilnius municipal government discuss the issue together. Olivier Poupard, a French Embassy adviser, told BNS that France's ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense would soon make proposals on the burial.