Across Our Region: Top stories from the last seven days

The biggest stories, and other interesting news, from the eight Nordic and Baltic countries plus our eastern neighbour Russia.

Across Our Region

Hej! Tere! Sveiki! Halló!

If you’re a regular News Now Finland reader then hopefully you’re well-versed in all the news that’s happening here at home. But do you know what’s going on across our region? What’s been hitting the headlines in Iceland or Lithuania? What are the top stories in Denmark or Estonia?

In our new regular Sunday morning feature we’re pulling together the most important stories – and some other interesting pieces of news – from the past week in seven Nordic and Baltic countries, plus our eastern neighbour Russia.

Everything’s in one place, with links to more information and sources clearly marked, so you can be sure there’s no fake news. Enjoy scrolling through the stories on your phone or tablet every Sunday, and catching up with the news Across Our Region.

Estonia‘s Foreign Minister Mart Helme, from the far-right government coalition party EKRE resigned this week after calling US president-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden “corrupt dirtbags” and “corrupt characters.” Speaking on a radio show, Helme said “there can be no questions that these elections were falsified.” Helme faced a backlash from Estonia’s political leaders and within 24 hours he had quit the post, blaming “slander and lies” in the Estonian media for his downfall. [Politico Europe]

Meanwhile Estonia’s government has announced a non-binding referendum will be held next spring on the issue of marriage equality. [Euronews]

The City of Tallinn is launching a new project to improve communication efforts with the growing number of residents who say their main language is English. The project started with a Facebook group and has expanded into an EU-funded project called “Tallinn City Center New Arrivals.” [ERR News]

Sweden has seen a surge of new coronavirus infections and hospital admissions over the last seven days, with a senior public health official in Stockholm saying “we consider the situation extremely serious.” Hospitals are treating upwards of 60% more Covid-19 cases this week than the previous week, with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven noting that all indicators were “going in the wrong direction.” [The Guardian]

Sweden’s death rate per capita is higher than other Nordic countries, but lower than other large EU countries like Spain. [Reuters]

There have also been new restrictions introduced this week in Sweden to try and slow the spread of the virus. These apply in 17 of the country’s 21 regions and include measures such as limiting capacity in restaurants and cafes, and a ban on visiting people in elderly care homes – but there is no general recommendation as yet to wear face masks. [Euronews]

Librarians in some Swedish cities are being offered Arabic lessons to communicate better with customers, as the number of people who come from the Middle East and North Africa increases. [TRT World]

Russia set a new grim coronavirus milestone this week with more than 22,000 Covid-19 infections reported in a single day on Saturday. The country’s official total cases stands at 1,903,253, the fifth highest in the world behind France, Brazil, India and the USA. The government has imposed nationwide facemask rules and ordered bars, nightclubs and and late night restaurants closed – but held off ordering a wider lockdown. [Moscow Times]

The Russian developer of a vaccine against coronavirus announced this week it showed a 92% efficacy in preventing cases of Covid-19. The latest testing results are based on 20,000 volunteers who were given the first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine, and 16,000 more who received the second shot. [Bloomberg]

Meanwhile the Russian navy is planning to make its presence felt in Africa by announcing plans to establish a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Up to 300 military and civilian personnel, and four ships including nuclear-powered vessels could be stationed there. [Al Jazeera]

In Lithuania an increasing number of people, including politicians, are doubting Covid-19 and its severity reports Baltic News Network. With the number of new cases topping 2,000 per day, there are growing calls and online petitions for a return to business as usual despite the government closing all gyms, spas, museums, cinemas and theaters until the end of November. There’s also a limit of meetings in public places of just five people, and everyone must stay two metres apart. [BNN]

The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence signed a €181 million deal this week to buy four Black Hawk helicopters from Lockheed Martin. It’s the first time the Lithuanian military, NATO members, have bought American helicopters which will replace ageing Soviet-built Mil Mi-8T aircraft. [Defense News]

Telia announced this week it will launch Lithuania’s first 5G network, with 11 base stations in three cities: Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda. [Mobile World Magazine]

The government of Denmark admitted this week it didn’t have the legal rights to order the nationwide culling of millions of mink over mutant coronavirus concerns, and should only have ordered animals to be killed on farms where there were infection outbreaks. Scientists think the new mutated strain of coronavirus has jumped from mink to humans, with cases confirmed at hundreds of mink farms in Denmark. [BBC]

Around 17 million mink were due to be culled but it will now not go ahead. Instead, farmers will put down infected animals but not healthy ones. [Bloomberg]

In light of the mink virus outbreak, the UK has banned visitors from Denmark, and anyone arriving from Saturday will be denied entry. [Politico Europe]

Latvia‘s Constitutional Court recognised the rights of same-sex couples to parental leave in a ruling. The case was brought by a woman whose partner was not allowed to take the 10-days leave which is granted to fathers under Latvian law. A judge in Riga ruled that the Constitution obliges the state to protect the family of same-sex partners as well. [Latvian Public Broadcasting]

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Latvia’s tourism industry hard, with new figures out this week showing the number of nights spent by visitors in September is down more than 54% compared with the year before. [BNN]

Norway-based airline Norwegian says its cash crisis could force the carrier to halt operations early next year. The company’s rapid expansion has left it with heavy debts and the coronavirus pandemic has left it serving only domestic routes with just six of its 140 aircraft flying. Norwegian has issued a plea for emergency funding but the government this week rejected calls for more state support for the airline, whose shares have lost 99% of their value since January. [Al Jazeera]

Members of Parliament in Norway this week approved a law that bans hate speech against bisexual and trans people. It expands an existing law, which dates from 1981, which banned hate speech against gay men and lesbians. [Pink News] 

A team of archeologists is racing against time to uncover the secrets of a long-buried Viking ship, even as microscopic fungi destroy what remains of the 20-metre wooden longship. [The Local Norway]

Iceland’s health minister announced this week the country’s Covid-19 rules would soon be relaxed. Barber shops, beauty salons and massage services will be allowed to open from 18th November, and assembly limits at schools will be raised. Sports for young people will be able to start again, but swimming pools and gyms will remain closed for the time being. [RÚV]

A Canadian company has snapped up all the gold exploration licenses for Iceland, after acquiring a local company. Despite concerns about the environmental impact of gold mining, the company says they practice “eco-mining”. [Grapevine]

The UK and Iceland are stepping up cooperation on fishing. In a deal signed this week the two countries will share best practice on product innovation, food waste reduction, and other fisheries issues. The deal comes into effect when the UK leaves the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the end of December. [UK Government]