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Friday 23.08.2019 | Name days: Valgudis, Ralfs, Vitālijs
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BNN summary of the week: Bunkus’ murder, minister’s flying pen, bank governor’s revoked permit

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Murder; Business; Proposal; Fight; Decision; Initiative; Opinion; Process.

MURDER: Insolvency administrator Bunkus’ attackers’ car identified. Police urge residents to report information

In relation to the murder of insolvency administrator Mārtiņš Bunkus, Latvia’s State Police ask residents who saw an orange-red VW LT with registration number JD 5960 with a cargo box covered with a red or orange tent to report any information they have to authorities.

Police also urge residents who know anything about car registration plate forgeries.

So far the investigation has found out about an orange-red VW LT being used in the armed attack on the insolvency administrator. The car had a forged registration number JD 5960. The car was found abandoned and burned shortly after the murder.

Sworn attorney, insolvency administrator Mārtiņš Bunkus was shot dead in his car at 08:40 in the morning in near Brothers Cemetery in Riga, Aizsaules Street 1 on Wednesday, 30 May.

Interior Affairs Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said that it was likely a hired hit. The reason may be associated with the victim’s professional activity. However, police do not exclude other possibilities.

The van in question spotted near the murder scene was found shortly after the murder – abandoned and burned.

The White Range Rover, driven by Bunkus, was shot through the wind shield on the driver’s side. The care was on its way towards the Brothers Cemetery when it was attacked. The car steered off the road, ran over a road sign and crashed into the fence of the cemetery, damaging it.

Full article here

BUSINESS: airBaltic signs contract for purchase of 60 more CS300 aircraft

Latvia’s national airBaltic airline and Bombardier Commercial Aircraft have announced the signing of a procurement contract for 30 Bombardier CS300 aircraft with option to procure 30 more in the future, as BNN was informed by the airline.

This order is an addition to the one signed for the provision of 20 CS300 aircraft. It also forms the foundation for airBaltic’s Destination 2025 business plan, continuing the previous Horizon 2021 plan.

«As the first airline in the world to have commenced flights using CS300 aircraft, we have made a far-reaching decision in favour of new technologies that will help ensure sustainable profitability. Because CS300 helps save up to 22% of fuel, it helps maintain operational costs down. We experienced excellent growth in 2017. We also proved to the world this aircraft’s unique advantages and advantages. We have successfully commenced modernization of our existing fleet. We are happy to expand our fleet to up to 80 CS300 aircraft, which will replace our other aircraft within the next year,» says airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss.

«New we are ready to commence the next stage of our business strategy – Destination 2025. As part of this strategy, airBaltic has plans to expand its activities. One major part of the new business plan is the formation of a larger and more exclusive fleet consisting only of CS300 aircraft, which are more appropriate for our market,» said Gauss.

Full article here

PROPOSAL: children’s safety should be a priority at all times, not just for one holiday

Any child capable of formulating their opinion should be provided with freedom to voice them in all matters that affect them. In addition, children’s opinion should be provided with enough attention in accordance with their age and maturity, says Latvia’s Welfare Ministry.

Friday, 1 June, Latvia will be celebrating International Day for Protection of Children. This day is celebrated in many countries of the world. It was established in 1925 during World Conference for the Protection of Children in Geneva. Since 1950, International Day for Protection of Children is celebrated by most countries around the world, as noted by the ministry.

In Latvia, 1 June is an official celebrated day in Latvia. It was added to the official list in 2017. Each resident’s duty is protecting their own and other children’s safety. Residents have a duty to report situations when violations of children’s rights to police, orphan courts or other child protection institutions.

«This day is a good time for all of us to think about children’s safety in the broadest sense – from safety out on street to emotional and physical safety. Unfortunately, people tend to think about children’s safety only when disaster has already struck. Summer is here – school is out. I urge resident to explain to their children the importance of safety at home, in school, at the beach and in water, on the road and in parks. Only then will be able to provide safety for our children,» says Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs.

Full article here

FIGHT: Minister’s pen flies because Saeima’s committee conceptually declines school age initiative

On Thursday, 31 May, Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee declined the initiative for starting school at the age of six.

The Saeima will now have to decide on changes.

Amendments regarding starting school at the age of six were submitted by Education and Science Committee.

The committee also declined the proposal associated with the ministry’s proposed reforms for the country’s school system.

At the same time, the committee also discussed a compromise solution for the reform’s introduction period several other education stages.

Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis, who emphasized that with the rejection of this proposal ‘deputies have tossed in the bin’ a legislative proposal proposed by hundreds of experts.

The committee decided to preserve the existing four general education programmes. The minister said the committee’s decision excludes this initiative’s realization, which would have allowed education institution to create different choices for education programmes.

Full article here

DECISION: Authorities revoke Bank of Latvia governor’s access to official secrets

Constitution Protection Bureau has officially revoked the permit held by governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, who is accused of bribery, denying him access to official secrets, as confirmed by his lawyer Saulvedis Vārpiņš.

The Constitution Protection Bureau says the investigation is over. No comments are provided by the bureau.

In February, Rimšēvičs was made suspect in a criminal case launched by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in accordance with Part 4 of Section 320 of the Criminal Law – for requesting and accepting a bribe. The estimated size of the bribe in question was at least EUR 100,000. Businessman Māris Martinsons was also detained initially, but later released from custody. A security measure not associated with deprivation of freedom has been applied to him.

Full article here

INITIATIVE: Lithuania procrastinates ratification of Istanbul Convention

The superstitions and the stereotypes in Lithuania are stronger than the good will to tackle domestic violence and women abuse.

The ratification of the Istanbul Convention has stalled in the Seimas, Lithuanian legislature – the question has been rubbed out from the Seimas’ Spring Session agenda and is unlikely it will end up being there in the foreseen future.

The bone of contention is the definition of gender and its Lithuanian translation, approved by the government chancellery, as «social gender».

«I believe that being Conservative Lithuania is not up to it,» Kęstutis Girnius, a political analyst of US descent, commented to BNN.

Meanwhile, Vygaudas Ušackas, one of the plausible presidential election candidates, sited to BNN «complexity» of the issue and declined to comment on it.

«I feel my knowledge on the issues contains quite some gaps,» he admitted.

«I am not surprised that the Seimas voted against the inclusion of the ratification of the Convention in the parliamentary session. When many of the MPs live in the medieval ages, it has become the real bugaboo to scare all,» Dovilė Šakalienė, a progressive MP, told BNN.

The ruling Farmers and Greens (LVŽS), the opposition Conservatives, the Electoral Action of Poles, the Order and Justice Party and the Labour partly are staunchly against it. Only the Social Democrats and the beleaguered Liberals exhort to vote for the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, in its entirety.

Full article here

OPINION: Riga Mayor says tree-planting activists in Riga are «absolute jackasses»

People who arbitrarily decide to plant trees in the middle of streets in Riga are ‘absolute jackasses’, says Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs.

He said in an interview to Diena: «In all my years working in the municipality, I have never seen such a level of idiocy. When Barona Street was repaired, we created space for trees and bushes. Tree-planting is going as planned. And now some absolute jackasses show up, dig up locations reserved for Rīgas meži to plant trees in an organized manner and plant there who knows what, make that a show and then act surprised when we then have to dig up what they dug in there […]»

Ušakovs added that trees will be planted in empty spots this year in accordance with the plan and nature’s calendar.

The mayor is of the same opinion when it comes to people who draw bicycle lines on Riga’s streets.

Full article here

PROCESS: Lithuania has permitted torture by U.S. authorities, rules ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the case of U.S. held Abu Zubaydah v. Lithuania that the Baltic state has secretly allowed the «ill-treatment and arbitrary detention» of the terror suspect by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Lithuanian soil.

According to a press release by the Court published on Wednesday, May 31, the applicant in the case is a stateless Palestinian who was born in 1971 called Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, who is also known as Abu Zubaydah, about him being kept in a secret CIA prison that the Court ruled had existed in Lithuania between February 2005 and March 2006.

Judges found unanimously that there have been: «Violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights, because of the Government’s failure to effectively investigate Mr Husayn’s allegations and because of its complicity in the CIA’s actions that had led to ill-treatment; and violations of Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (right to respect for private life), and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), in conjunction with Article 3»

Full article here


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No obstacles to Riga signing waste contract on 20 years, says ministry, despite probe

Latvian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development has stated that the plan by the Riga City Council to award a waste management contract on 20 years is not against the law, despite competition regulator investigating alleged violations.

Riga pledges to increase use of Latvian in its kindergartens

The Riga municipality will continue increasing the use of the Latvian language in the kindergartens of the capital, the responsible department of the Riga City Council has stated in reaction to calls to switch all kindergarten groups to the official language.

France supports new, short Brexit talks for UK to leave with deal

Emmanuel Macron of France supported new, month-long Brexit negotiations to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but was against the removal of the Irish backstop from the deal – a key demand by his guest British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Lithuania backs Sinkevičius as European Commission nominee

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday, August 22, voted to support Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Lithuanian Minister of the Economy and Innovation, as the country’s pick for the next European Commission.

New member of Riga Freeport board rushes to meet controversial Šlesers, TV3 Ziņas says

Riga councilman Sandris Bergmanis has a day after being elected to the board of the Freeport of Riga Authority met with businessman and former Latvian minister Ainārs Šlesers, according to the news programme TV3 Ziņas.

Latvian power production drops to lowest level in year

Energy companies in Latvia produced 357 655 megawatt hours of power in July, which is the lowest level of national power output since July 2018. This allowed to cover 64% of the Latvian electricity consumption, according to AS Augstsprieguma tīkls.

Compensation payments of defunct Latvian PNB Banka begin

With operations of the Latvian bank, AS PNB Banka, stopped, the process of paying the guaranteed compensation to its clients has begun on August 22, according Citadele, the lender tasked with the payments.

Riga planning to introduce tourist fee – one euro per day

The Riga City Council is discussing a plan to introduce a tourist fee charging all places of tourist accommodation a fee of one euro per day.

Expert: With Belarus electricity freezing Baltics’ solidarity, Moscow is over the moon

In a blow to Lithuania’s far-reaching plans, Latvia has announced it looks forward to buying electricity from a nuclear power plant in Belarus’ Astravyets under construction 50 kilometres away from Vilnius.

WHO: Little risk from microplastics in drinking water

The World Health Organization has declared that the current level of microplastic particles in drinking water does not pose is not a serious risk for health, yet more research was necessary to determine their effects on human health.

Subsidies to controversial Riga transport company could increase by EUR 20 mln

Amid the criticism of the Riga municipal transport company Rīgas satiksme for its losses and their effect on the Latvian state budget, a plan has been voiced to increase its subsidies, now 120 million euros, by another 20 million euros, Latvian Radio reports.

Latvian Minister keeping adviser detained by corruption watchdog for now

Latvian Agriculture Minister Kaspars Gerhards will clarify the reason, why his advisor and the mayor of the city of Ogre, Egils Helmanis, has been detained by corruption investigators, to decide on keeping him in office.

Trump, Macron willing to readmit Russia to G7, despite Crimea annexation

The leaders of France and the United States have expressed their backing to readmitting Russia to the G7 conference of world powers in 2020, despite Ukraine’s Crimea still being held by Moscow, CNN reports.

Latvian excise tax income up by 8% in first half of 2018

The Latvian excise tax income in the first half of 2019 has been 521 million euros, –an increase by 39 million euros, or 8.1% – compared to the respective period last year, showed data by the Latvian State Revenue Service.

Latvian PM: Most of freely available 2020 budget funds already earmarked

Discussing the 2020 Latvian national budget, Latvian prime minister Krišjānis Kariņš pointed out that its fiscal space is limited by previous decisions and that the expected losses of the Riga transport company will not permit raising wages and pensions nationally.

Corruption watchdog detains Ogre city mayor Helmanis

The Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has on Wednesday detained the mayor of central Latvian city of Ogre, Egils Helmanis, according to LETA news agency.

New members to Freeport of Riga Authority elected, despite criticism

The Riga City Council elected to the Board of the Freeport of Riga Authority, mayor Oļegs Burovs and councilman Sandris Bergmanis, despite heavy criticism of the latter for incompetence and lack of vision.

Italy loses government, coalition of right-wing, anti-establishment parties collapses

Italy has lost its government with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announcing resignation after the right-wing League party pushed for no-confidence motion to its own government.

Kaljulaid opposed to Estonian minister after police chief scandal

Alleging that Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme has violated the law by trying to sack top police chief, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has stated that the minister has no place in the government.

Planned Latvian economic cases’ court conceptually backed by government

The plan by the Latvian Ministry of Justice to establish a court of economic cases has on Tuesday, August 20, been supported by the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers.

Riga deputy mayor posts go to Harmony and independent politician

In the Riga City Council, deputy mayors have been elected with one post going to Anna Vladova from Harmony and the other – to Vadims Baraņņiks from the group of independent councilmen.

Latvia charges energy company executives for attempted fraud

Two board members of Latvian power company SIA Rīgas enerģija have been charged in a criminal case for an attempt to acquire with deceit the rights to supply electricity as part of the mandatory procurement component programme.

Consumer protection: 34% of Latvians admit post-vacation financial difficulties

During vacation, 77% of Latvians spend more money than planned, but 34% admit having trouble making ends meet after vacation, according to a poll by the Latvian Consumer Protection Centre.

Firms like Riga transport company to be banned from working with losses, minister says

As the European Union’s statisticians have classified the Riga municipal transport company Rīgas satiksme in the debt of the national budget, it is planned in Latvia to prohibit such companies from working with losses, Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs has told LNT 900 sekundes programme.

Minor dies in large fire in Latvia

An underage person has been found dead in a large fire in the Latvian region of Vidzeme, the Latvian Fire and Rescue Service has said. Person wascsaved from burning house in Liepāja.

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