• 2002-08-29
Latvians appeal

Two Latvians convicted in Greece of smuggling illegal immigrants into Europe have appealed the court's ruling, Latvian Embassy officials said.

Tatjana Samoradova and Ernests Romanovs were arrested in July along with seven Lithuanians after police found them transporting 54 illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt in rented trailers. A court convicted the pair to nine years in jail.

Liga Rozeniece, first secretary of Latvia's Embassy in Athens, said a court was expected to hear the appeal Dec. 4. (Baltic News Service)

Estonian in D.C.

Estonian conductor Eri Klas will lead the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. at a concert to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Klas, one of Estonia's best-known conductors, will lead the orchestra in renditions of Brahms' "Tragic Overture" and his "German Requiem" on Sept. 12 and 13 at the Kennedy Center Prelude Festival, the daily Postimees reported. (BNS)

Grant bails

British film star Hugh Grant has canceled plans to attend the Vilnius premiere of his new movie, "About a Boy," after the Lithuanian film distributor balked at picking up his travel expenses.

Bombos Filmai had been negotiating with the 42-year-old actor's London agents over his participation in the Sept. 6 premiere but had to back out when sponsors who had promised to foot part of the star's travel bill decided not to contribute.

Marketing manager Andrius Chranovskis said Grant's travel, accommodation and boarding expenses would have cost 165,000 litas (48,000 euros). (BNS)

Berzins under investigation

Latvia's State Revenue Service will examine accusations that Prime Minister Andris Berzins violated anti-corruption laws by vacationing in Turkey on a yacht owned by plywood manufacturer Latvijas Finieris.

The accusation was made by the daily newspaper Neatkariga Rita Avize, which said Berzins last year supported a plan that would grant Latvijas Finieris more than 6 million lats (10.2 million euros) in tax relief.

Berzins' office said he was invited on the cruise by the company's senior adviser, who is also a friend of the family. Arnis Lapins, the prime minister's spokesman, said Berzins covered the costs of the trip.(BNS)

Fire worries

Lithuania remains on high alert for forest fires after several weeks without rain, the Environment Ministry said. Ministry officials reported more than 50 small fires around the country between Aug. 24 and 26. Some 18 hectares of forest land were damaged.

But officials said air pollution remained within normal levels despite the thick layer of smog that enveloped Vilnius last week, the result of peat bog fires outside the city.

Water levels in Lithuanian rivers have dropped, threatening fish stocks.

Latvia and Estonia have also suffered fires, as a result of a hot, dry summer. Some parts of the Baltics have not seen rain for more than 40 days. (BNS)

Fighting trafficking

Baltic and Nordic foreign ministers said Aug. 26 they want to step up cooperation to combat the trafficking of women in the Baltic Sea region.

Speaking to reporters after the ministers' meeting in Tallinn, Estonian Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland said the illegal movement of people and trafficking of women was a pressing problem in the area, with Baltic women often being lured by false job offers and then being forced into prostitution.

The International Organization for Migration estimates some 2,000 Baltic women fall victim to such scams each year. Nordic women have also been targeted.(BNS)

Savisaar on top

With two months to go before municipal elections, voters in Tallinn prefer the Center Party and its leader, Mayor Edgar Savisaar, over the political competitors, according to a survey conducted by the ES Turu-uuringute research company.

Some 28 percent of those questioned said they supported Savissar and the Center Party. The Reform Party, the Centrists coalition partner in the national government, comes in second, with 13 percent support.

Savissar is also tops in popularity among Tallinn's Russian-speakers, with 45 percent saying they will support the mayor. (BNS)

Contraband contretemps

Border guards confiscated 26 tons of contraband spirits from a 32-year-old Belarusian national attempting to cross into Lithuania Aug. 24. The haul is the largest ever confiscated by Lithuanian border officials, the state border service said.

The Belarusian is being held for questioning, as officials say they suspect he was part of a larger operation.

In the first eight months of the year, customs officials have confiscated 37.5 tons of smuggled alcohol, most of it seized on the country's border with Belarus. (BNS)