Latvija in brief - 2004-03-25

  • 2004-03-25
An ad campaign for the Swedish supermarket chain Rimi showing a barbecued suckling in the shape of a small elephant sparked protests from the Riga city zoo and the Environmental Protection Club.

The groups were angered by the ad, claiming it did not promote the ethical treatment of animals. According to a zoo spokeswoman, the only elephant to be born in Riga -temporarily in the Netherlands awaiting a new habitat - normally receives thousands of letters from Latvians.

Janis Lejnieks, deputy head of the state's cultural monument inspection department, was arrested by the anticorruption bureau for allegedly accepting a 1,000 lat (1,500 euro) bribe in order to authorize a construction design. The bureau learned of the alleged kickback from an anonymous call to its toll-free hotline.

On March 22, Gaidis Andrejs Zeibots, the commander of the National Armed Forces, became the first military official since 1991 to receive Latvia's highest military position of vice admiral, following an order signed by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

Businessman Alexandrs Basarins said he planned to buy the Italian soccer club Tornio Calcio with the help of a team of Latvian investors, according to television reports. The other investors have so far remained secret.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled that degrees obtained at the Israeli branch of the University of Latvia are valid. An Israeli court had declared them invalid in 2002, accusing the institution of granting fraudulent degrees. The earlier decision had resulted in lower pay for those that had received an education from this branch of the Riga-based university.

The government has asked the European Court of Human Rights to throw out a case brought by Tatyana Zhdanoka over election rights, since she can now run for the European Parliament. She was banned from standing for election to either Parliament or the local government since she was a member of the Communist Party after Jan. 13, 1991.

Culture Minister Helena Demakova was expected to meet with Microsoft Vice President Jean-Philippe Courtois to request financial support for the construction of a new national library. The minister reportedly asked for a meeting after being told by U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Brian E. Carlson that Courtois was coming to Latvia. Under the law on the Latvian national library, construction of a modern facility must begin in 2005 and be completed by 2008.

The central election committee will begin accepting candidate lists on March 24 for the upcoming Europarliament elections. A maximum number of 18 candidates may be mentioned on the lists, which must be accompanied by a pre-election platform and 1,000 lat (1,500 euro) security deposit. Latvia will elect nine representatives to the Europarliament on June 12.