• 2002-04-18
MAJOR MARRIAGE: Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas announced on April 15 he officially divorced his first wife Julija and now plans to marry his long-time friend Kristina Butrimiene. The press release from the PM's office came two days after Brazauskas, who is to turn 70 this fall, returned from a secret week-long holiday in Egypt with Butrimiene, also divorced. Brazauskas' holiday with Butrimiene, 53, made the front pages in all major dailies in Lithuania. (Baltic News Service)

CRUEL KINDERGARTEN: Parents have reported cruelty and violence against children in a kindergarten in the eastern Latvian district of Rezekne, saying those who could not fall asleep during a midday nap were tied to their beds, made to stand barefoot on a concrete floor for hours, and held in a dark punishment cell. The organization Save the Children has received a videotape with parents describing the cruel treatment of their children by kindergarten director Ingrida Suharevska, teacher Anita Micule, and cook Zinaida Lucijanova. Latgale's prosecutor's office opened a criminal case, but the district authorities failed to react appropriately for a prolonged period. The kindergarten director has kept her employment. But Suharevska has offered her resignation on the grounds that she can't stand the tension of the case opened against her. (BNS)

ORIENT EXPRESS: Latvia's prime minister and the visiting president of Turkey agreed at talks in Riga that both countries had a common foreign policy goal - integration into the European Union. Andris Berzins and Ahmet Necdet Sezer agreed that Latvia, now doing well in the EU accession talks, and Turkey, a NATO member state, could render substantial support to each other in pursuing integration in these international organizations. Sezer said that a new economic, political and military structure is being built in Europe in order to ensure stability and security in the region. He said Turkish-Latvian relations were good and should be further developed in future, improving economic relations, in particular trade. The Turkish delegation left Latvia for Lithuania on April 16. (BNS)

BIG RETURN: Lithuania's prime minister invited the international Jewish community on April 16 to open talks with leaders in the Baltic state on the restitution of Jewish property lost during World War II. Algirdas Brazauskas said on public radio that international, Israeli and U.S. Jewish groups jointly enter negotiations, saying he felt a "responsibility to take action in this area." Brazauskas also called on Lithuania's judiciary to be more active in tackling anti-Semitism. About 90 percent of Lithuania's 220,000 prewar Jewish community perished during the Holocaust. (Agence France Presse)

TV FOR RUSSIANS: The development plan of Estonia's public ETV television for 2003-2005 calls for a twofold increase in Russian-language broadcasting and increased emphasis on broadcasts helping to integrate the Russian-speaking community. The Eesti Raadio and Eesti Televisioon development plan approved by the government on April 16 says Russian-language broadcasts will increase from 55 hours this year to 96 hours in 2005. ETV denied a report in the edition of the Russian-language Molodyezh Estonii daily published on the same date, which claims that in reality broadcasts in Russian could be reduced from 295 minutes to 175 minutes per week. ETV plans to increase the time earmarked for news in Russian and develop new bilingual broadcasts. "For years we've spent resources on Russian-language broadcasts watched by only a small portion of the Russian-language population. With the program reform we wish to attract more Russian-speakers and help them better understand what goes on in Estonian society," said Ilmar Raag, ETV's CEO. (BNS)

STRONG MAN DIES: Latvian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Imants Daudiss, died unexpectedly at the age of 56 in Riga on April 14, the Latvian Foreign Ministry confirmed. Daudiss was posted to the UK in Sept. 2001. His previous assignment was as Latvian ambassador to Russia from 1997. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins sent their condolences to Daudiss' relatives. Vike-Freiberga said in her letter, "Imants Daudiss was one of the strong men who stood at the origins of the restoration of Latvia's independence. A man of trust, courage and patriotic feelings, he was one of the brightest diplomats of his country. The name of Imants Daudiss will forever stay on the Latvian history records." Daudiss took an active role in the pro-independence activities of the Latvian Popular Front. He was among organizers of the Latvia's Way party, and was twice elected to the Latvian Parliament. (BNS)

COSTLY CAR: The 10-year-old Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that was the official car of former Estonian President Lennart Meri for two terms and served his successor Arnold Ruutel since last fall will be sold by auction. "There were two possibilities - either to sell it or give it to some state institution for free," presidential spokeswoman Ester Sank said. She was unable to say how exactly the vehicle, currently parked in the courtyard of the presidential palace at Kadriorg, Tallinn, will be auctioned. "The terms, the starting price and everything else that is necessary is only being put together. By the end of April the picture will be clear," she said. When the car was bought second-hand for Meri in spring 1993 it was about one year old. By now it has driven over 366,000 kilometers. Experts are unwilling to predict how much the car, which cost a little over 600,000 kroons ($35,000) when new, could fetch in an auction. A similar 10-year-old Mercedes sells today for about 200,000 kroons, but the buyer may be willing to pay extra considering the car's historic past. (BNS)