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Baltic neighbors in dispute over cyclist’s case

Anger mounted in Latvia on Wednesday over neighboring Lithuania's jailing of Latvian Olympic cyclist Juris Silovs, with a national newspaper calling for a boycott of Lithuanian goods. The Latvian government has also moved quickly to assist the former member of the French team Cofidis, with the spokesman of Prime Minister Andris Berzins telling the Baltic News Service that "in the future every possible chance will be use to assist Silovs." Silovs has been sentenced to five and a half years in a maximum security Lithuanian prison for failing to declare 86,300 euros (81,430 dollars)

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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002

Anger mounted in Latvia on Wednesday over neighboring Lithuania’s jailing of Latvian Olympic cyclist Juris Silovs, with a national newspaper calling for a boycott of Lithuanian goods.

The Latvian government has also moved quickly to assist the former member of the French team Cofidis, with the spokesman of Prime Minister Andris Berzins telling the Baltic News Service that “in the future every possible chance will be use to assist Silovs.”

Silovs has been sentenced to five and a half years in a maximum security Lithuanian prison for failing to declare 86,300 euros (81,430 dollars) worth of his earnings from Cofidis concealed in a tool box in his car, the daily newspaper Diena reported.

“We urge the Latvian people to boycott Lithuanian products and food until there is clarity in Silovs’ case,” the newspaper Vakara Zinas urged its readers, also calling on them to write to Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to urge him to pardon the cyclist.

Lithuanian border guards tried to “use the hopeless situation of the victim in order to get what they wanted easily,” wrote the newspaper, suggesting that Lithuanian officials were seeking a bribe to let Silovs through.

The cyclist’s communication difficulties resulting from a 1999 assault that put him into a coma would have made him an easy target for draconian Lithuanian authorities, said Edmunds Imsa, Vakara Zinas’ editor-in-chief.

He downplayed suggestions that the row could damage the image of the two Baltic states as they seek entry to the European Union and NATO. “We express our standpoint not because we think Lithuanians are very bad people but just to draw attention. We’d like to get him out of prison,” Imsa told the French wire service, AFP.

Copyright AFP2002