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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars
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BNN summary of the week: minister vs. minister. Riga’s agony. Anti-coronavirus measures in Latvia

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Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, summary, KNAB, conflict, Riga City Council, sanctions, China, RTAB, corruption, Maxima, recommendedThe ongoing conflict within Economy Ministry has reached the government’s ears. Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns has asked Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to dismiss Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro. The core of the issue is the minister’s infamous advisor Pāvels Rebenoks.

Bordāns criticizes Nemiro on ‘focusing all efforts on putting people close to him but lacking in qualifications to posts in one of Latvia’s largest and most strategically important company – AS Latvenergo’. It seems Rebenoks’ appointment to Latvenergo is so important that it forces the minister to ignore concerns from security services and makes him transfer rebellious state secretaries to other posts.

Kariņš so far has voiced only condemnation about this – ‘Latvenergo council members should be picked only through a personnel selection process – appointment of associates to important posts is unacceptable’.

Meanwhile, there is no end to conflicts within Riga City Council. It seems mayor Oļegs Burovs is of the same opinion. This is why he and the opposition have reached an agreement to call three consecutive meetings with no quorum, thereby creating legal basis for the entire city council’s dismissal.

‘Let’s wash our hands!’ Kariņš proposed at the beginning of the week, commenting on Latvia’s preparation for the possibility of the coronavirus spreading in the country. No infection cases have been observed in Latvia so far. Nevertheless, responsible services have already made preparations. Residents are urged to be careful and maintain personal hygiene, as well as look up information about the situation at reliable sources.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Disagreements; Opposite to dismissal; Don’t panic; Complaints; Searches; A look back; Conclusion; Language protectors; Chinese cameras.

DISAGREEMENTS

Latvian justice minister asks prime minister to dismiss economy minister

Jānis Bordāns, Ralfs Nemiro, Latvenergo, Saeima, KPV LV

Latvia’s Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns (L) and Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro (R)

Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns has asked Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to dismiss Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro over the situation with Latvenergo.

The justice minister is concerned that the situation at Economy Ministry may mean Ralfs Nemiro, instead of executing the objective outlined in the government declaration – liquidating MPC – is putting all efforts into appointing people close to him and people with insufficient qualifications and questionable reputation to one of the most strategically important state companies – Latvenergo.

Bordāns says that Nemiro’s activities involving Latvenergo do not comply with principles of good management.

«Additionally, the ministry’s administrative head, who has so far acted responsibly to prevent the situation from destabilizing, is asked to leave his post,» says Bordāns.

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OPPOSITE TO DISMISSAL

Failing to secure quorum for last meeting, Riga City Council faces dismissal

Riga City Council, dismissal, quorum, opposition, SaeimaUpon failing to secure quorum at the last organized meeting, deputies of Riga City Council have generated a legal basis for the city council’s dismissal.

In accordance with the Law on Local Governments, three consecutive meetings with no quorum of votes is one of the reasons that allow the Saeima to decide on a city council’s dismissal.

Quorum of votes at Riga City Council is secured with at least 31 deputies participating in a meeting. No more than 24 deputies had taken part in the last three meetings. Today’s meeting was attended by 23 deputies.

None of the representatives of opposition parties took part in the meeting. Some of Honour to Serve Riga had also decided to skip the meeting today.

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DON’T PANIC

Officials: there is no reason to panic over possible spread of coronavirus in Latvia

coronavirus, Latvia, preventive measures, prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, healthcare minister, Ilze ViņķeleThere is no reason to panic over a possible spread of coronavirus in Latvia. Responsible services have prepared countermeasures, as stressed by Latvian officials after a meeting of the Crisis Management Council on Tuesday, 4 February.

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš stressed that not a single case of coronavirus infection has been noted in Latvia so far. Nevertheless, responsible services have prepared for possible infection cases and actively exchange information about the situation.

«I can recommend only one thing – we have to wash our hands!» said the prime minister.

Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele stressed the importance of personal hygiene and added – residents should consult with family doctors about doubts and suspicions.

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COMPLAINTS

RTAB head accuses Riga’s mayor of document forging; asks KNAB to investigate

RTAB, KNAB, conflict, Guntars Grīnvalds, Jānis Jenzis, Ieva Lasmane

Guntars Grīnvalds

Riga Tourism Development Bureau (RTAB) board chairman Guntars Grīnvalds has asked Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) to investigate possible document forging in the institution.

He believes document-forging was committed in a group at RTAB and that other board members delegated by the municipality – RTAB board member Ieva Lasmane and Latvian Restaurants Association president and office board member Jānis Jenzis, as well as Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs – were involved in it. He also said it is possible other founders may have been involved without them even knowing it.

Grīnvalds claims – although he has tried to introduce new good management in the institution, the years-long blowback of illegalities has been stronger, which resulted in him becoming «a manager inconvenient for schemes».

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SEARCH

Baltic Media Alliance co-owner Solodovs a suspect in VDD criminal process

Baltic Media Alliance, Oļegs Solodovs, EU sanctions, VDDOne of the suspects in the criminal process commenced by Latvian State Security Service (VDD) over violation of international sanctions is LLC Baltic Media Alliance co-owner and board chairman Oļegs Solodovs, according to unofficial information from LETA.

According to information from Firmas.lv, Latvian citizen Solodovs owns 50% of company shares, the other half of shares is owned by Russian citizen Aleksejs Pļasunovs.

Solodovs has been board chairman of Baltic Media Alliance since its foundation in 2007. Pļasunovs is also a board member, according to data from Firmas.lv.

On Tuesday, 4 February, VDD performed multiple searches in Riga and Tallinn. Searches were performed as part of 19 December 2019 criminal process – on violation of EU sanctions in a group following a prior agreement.

As reported by VDD, a number of court-sanctioned searches were performed in cooperation with Estonian Security Police at locations associated with suspects in Riga and Tallinn. Police confiscated a number of documents and data storage devices during those searches.

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A LOOK BACK

Number of criminal cases commenced by KNAB reaches forty seven in 2019

KNAB, corruption, reportWhen it comes for corruption prevention, in 2019 Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) accomplished its best result in the past decade – a total of 47 criminal processes were commenced, according to the statement released by KNAB.

When compared to 2010, the number of commenced criminal processes has increased 24%. Although the number of criminal cases submitted for commencement of criminal prosecution has reduced, it should be stressed that in 2019 KNAB had multiple large and complicated criminal processes in the works. Investigation of those cases requires a lot of time and manpower, KNAB explains.

In 2019, KNAB sent requests for commencement of criminal prosecution of 15 criminal processes against 31 people. 15 of the bureau’s ongoing criminal cases were terminated.

The majority of people prosecuted in 2019 were accused of document forging and using forged documents, as well as fraud, bribery and accepting bribes.

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CONCLUSION

Maxima tragedy criminal case viewing concludes; ruling promised in mid-February

Maxima, trial, ruling, courtOn Tuesday, 4 February, Riga City Pārdaugava Court concluded listening to the last words of the accused in the so-called Zolitude Maxima supermarket tragedy criminal case and announced the ruling will be announced on 18 February.

In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law, the court can announce a shortened ruling and then write a full ruling later following which the two involved sides are able to decide on appealing.

During 4 February court session the accused denied allegations, expressed sympathy for the victims and their relations, as well as said they are confused over the charges presented to them.

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LANGUAGE PROTECTORS

Calls for Estonian subtitles in film festivals voiced by Estonian Culture Minister

Estonia, Estonian language, language protection, subtitles, translation, filmsTõnis Lukas, the Estonian Culture Minister, has encouraged organisers of cultural events to ensure state language subtitles with theatre and film festivals, as well as future public funding in mind, according to Estonian broadcaster ERR.

The minister voiced his position as to the compliance with the country’s Language Law in the context of criticism in Estonian media of a documentary film festival that lacked Estonian language subtitles to a majority of its apparently foreign language films.

On Thursday, February 6, ERR quoted Lukas as saying: «In a situation where there was criticism in the media earlier this week that a documentary festival had next to no Estonian subtitles, I find it unfitting and believe it would be appropriate for the state to require events that it finances to adhere to the Language Act in the future.»

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CHINESE CAMERAS

Cameras banned by US used to monitor Lithuanian leaders

Hikvision, Dahua, cameras, Lithuania, security, US, sanctionsThe video surveillance cameras manufactured in China by companies applied with US sanctions are used in cars used by Lithuanian political leaders, as well as in areas like state border guard and migration control, as concluded by journalists of Lithuanian public media LRT.

Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua are on the list of US sanctions, because US authorities have found that Beijing has involved companies in repressions against Uighurs and other Islamic minorities in China. Australia’s government found in 2018 that video cameras manufactured by both companies are used for spying.

LRT journalists have found that video surveillance cameras manufactured by Hikvision and Dahua are used by Lithuanian migration and police services, the State Border Guard, State Security Service and the state air traffic control company Oro Navigacija.

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Court of first instance rejects Ušakovs’ appeal on dismissal as mayor of Riga

On Wednesday, 8 April, the Administrative District Court rejected Harmony politician Nils Ušakovs’ applications in which he appealed the order issued by Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce on his dismissal from the post of mayor of Riga, as reported by the court.

Latest on COVID-19 in Baltics. 577 in Latvia, 912 in Lithuania, 1 185 in Estonia

The number of COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 577, increasing by 29 cases in the past day. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, report 912 confirmed infection cases. Public data in Estonia reports 1 185 infection cases in this Baltic State.

Inflation in Republic of Latvia reportedly at 1.4% in March

Compared to March 2019, the average level of consumer prices rose by 1.4 % in March 2020. Prices of goods have increased by 0.9 % and prices of services by 2.7 %.

Lithuania’s BC chief: «Latvia’s COVID-19 support for business has been swifter»

It is official: Lithuania is extending lockdown until April 27 to combat the coronavirus pandemic which death toll in the country stood at 15 as of Wednesday noon. As many as 912 persons were diagnosed with COVID-19 by then.

Lithuania on path to allow price regulation in government

In Lithuania, the majority of legislators in the Seimas, have backed draft amendments that set forth allowing the government to regulate the prices of essential goods during this time of quarantine, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports.

BNN EXPLAINS | Envelope wages – one of the main reasons why idleness benefits may be denied

People need certainty – if they honestly pay taxes, they should be able to receive support from the state in the event of a crisis, since they have taken care of the state all this time by paying taxes, BNN was told in a phone conversation by chairman of LBAS Egils Baldzēns.

Criminal process launched against Aivars Lembergs for defamation

On 7 April 2020 State Police Kurzeme RP Saldus Department’s Criminal Police Office commenced a criminal process against Aivars Lembergs for untrue statements and claims he has used on multiple occasions during meetings of Ventspils City Council and Finance Committee against city council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, as BNN was told by Kristovskis.

Latvia’s Prime Minister: we are financially well-situated in this crisis

We are financially well-situated in this crisis, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Latvian government supports dismissal of State Land Service’s director general

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has supported Justice Ministry’s prepared decision project that details the dismissal of the State Land Service director general Solvitai Zvidriņa from her post, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

China lifts lockdown in Wuhan

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic of COVID-19 began, a lockdown has been lifted for the first time since January, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Support in Latvia for COVID-19 crisis prevention reaches four billion euros

The volume of support available in Latvia to finance preventive measures to overcome COVID-19 crisis has reached four billion euros, as reported by Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs on Tuesday, 7 April.

Another month stuck home. Latvian government extends state of emergency

The state of emergency declared in Latvia because of COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until 12 May, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on social media on 7 April.

75 reports on competition distortions reported to Competition Council in 2019

Last year, the Competition Council received a total of 75 reports related to competition distortions caused by public persons, according to information listed in the latest public account for the institution’s more significant accomplishments in 2019 and developments in competition rights enforcement in Latvia.

Australia quashes child abuse convictions against cardinal Pell

A court in Australia has overturned child sex abuse convictions against cardinal George Pell after he was found guilty and received a prison term, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Education and Science Ministry considers not cancelling centralized exams

Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry considers the option to not cancel centralized exams, especially for 12th graders, as reported on Tuesday, 7 April, by Education Minister Ilga Šuplinska during a meeting with Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Estonian government in two minds on cutting public spending to help economy

Should public spending be cut to help restore the economy? Two of the three parties in the Estonian government have opposing views on this as economic recovery is increasingly discussed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees

Because of consequences caused by COVID-19, Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees, as BNN was informed by the company.

Poland planning to hold presidential election as postal ballot

The Polish presidential election in May should be held as a postal ballot, the country’s legislators have decided. Opponents of the idea argue that this means putting public health at risk, British-Canadian news agency Reuters reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 548 infected in Latvia, 880 in Lithuania, 1 149 in Estonia

The total number of confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 548, increasing by six in the past day.

Latvian president urges not to sort idleness benefit recipients based on tax debts

When assessing whether or not a company meets requirements for idleness benefit eligibility, Latvia’s President Egils Levits urges the government to not sort them based on tax debts.

British PM Johnson treated from COVID-19 in intensive care

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care in London with his COVID-19 symptoms worsening as the outbreak is claiming more lives in the United Kingdom, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Riga City Council snap elections pushed back to 5 September

The ruling coalition in Latvia has agreed to push back Riga City Council snap elections to 5 September, as journalists were told by politicians after a meeting of ruling parties on Monday, 6 April.

US death toll of COVID-19 nears 11 000

The US, which is the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, has on Tuesday, April 7, reached a total number of COVID-19-related deaths of 10 986, according to the US John Hopkins University and German public broadcaster DW.

Prime Minister says Latvia will neither enhance nor relieve restrictions

We do not plan to enhance restrictive measures, but neither do we plan to relieve restrictions – the storm is not over. Nevertheless, we are on the correct path, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Spanish coronavirus death toll drops for fourth day in a row

In Spain, for the fourth day a row, the number of COVID-19 related deaths per day has decreased as the country has the most confirmed cases in infection in Europa, BBC reports.


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