Weekly News Update: July 23-29th, 2018

  • The massive forest/peat bog fire in the Talsi region continued burning throughout the week thanks mainly to temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s C (the 80s F). Despite help from helicopters from throughout Latvia and one from Belarus, it is estimated by firefighters that the fire will likely at least smolder for months until the rainy season begins in September. The nearby village of Stikli, home to about 50 residents, remains indefinitely evacuated. Other minor fires broke out in the bogs and forests of Ķemeri National Park in the extreme western end of Jūrmala and at a wooden pallet storage facility in the Plavnieki neighborhood of Rīga. At least two firefighters have been hospitalized for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation so far, but thankfully no serious injuries have been reported.
  • According to a new poll released this week, the populist “KPV LV” (Who Owns the State?) party, led by the former actor Artis Kaimiņš, has experienced a rapid rise in polling, moving up to third place with 11% just above the right-wing nationalist Nacionālā apvienība (National Alliance) 10.7%. The polling success comes despite (or thanks to) Kaimiņš’ arrest at the end of June for misusing party funds to fund his TV show, and seems to mostly come at the expense of the center-right “Zaļo un zemnieku savienība” (Union of Farmers and Greens) who remain in second place with 19.4%. The first-place pro-Russia “Sakaņa” party experienced a slight increase to 33.6%, while the libertarian “Attīstībai/Par!” (Development/For!) and the center-right/anti-corruption “Jaunā konservatīvā partija” (New Conservative Party) are expected to be included in parliament with 6.9% and 6.2% respectively.https://eng.lsm.lv/…/steep-rise-in-ratings-for-populist-pa…/
  • Economics minister Jānis Duklavs (ZZS) announced support for compensating farmers affected by the heatwave and drought, and met with the European Union’s commissioner for agriculture and rural affairs on Wednesday to request emergency funding for the Latvian agricultural industry. No specific amount of funding has yet been announced. Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis has continued to decide against declaring a “state of emergency” in the Latvian agricultural industry.https://www.baltictimes.com/duklavs_to_ask_eu_agriculture_…/
  • Latvian “Drošības policija” (security police) have begun investigating potential activity in Latvia conducted by Russian agent Maria Butina, who was detained last week by the American government, after pictures on her instagram account were found of her traveling to Riga on an AirBaltic flight. According to DP, she had not been a person of concern for Latvia until the pictures were discovered.https://eng.lsm.lv/…/security-services-to-check-possible-b…/
  • A new national electronic database will consolidate personal information for foster families, including audio and video material, photographs, personal codes, contact information, home address, marital status, language used by the family at home, parents’ workplace and income, and religious affiliation. The data will be accessible by various state agencies responsible for child welfare, and all of the information will be available for tens years after the family no longer has foster children. Many foster families oppose the inclusion of such wide-ranging information (especially religious information) and are worried about how many institutions will have access to the information.https://www.lsm.lv/…/audzugimenes-nemiera-ar-ministrijas-i…/
  • The Latvian border guard has sent one vessel to the Mediterranean Sea to assist fellow EU and NATO member Greece in rescuing migrants in distress and regulate the flow of migration. The crew of 15 guards will work on a rotational basis out of the island of Samu, roughly 20 km away from Turkish waters. https://eng.lsm.lv/…/latvian-border-patrol-vessel-helps-ou…/
  • The number of NATO soldiers serving in Latvia has reached 1400, and is expected to continue to increase. Roughly 1300 soldiers at the newly constructed Adaži military base just north of Rīga come from NATO members Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. 70 US soldiers and 5 Black Hawk helicopters also serve at the Lielvarde Air Force Base.https://eng.lsm.lv/…/1400-nato-soldiers-serving-in-latvia-…/