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Thursday, 17.04.2014, 19:16
Financial Times: Tele2 in a hole as Latvia not amused by fake meteor strike
Tele2 on October 27 promised to reimburse the nation for the cost of sending military units and scientists to investigate a 10 meter-wide crater that appeared near the Estonian border after locals reported seeing a streak of light cross the sky on Sunday in Mazsalaca (northern Latvia), informs LETA.
The Stockholm-based company admitted it had dug the hole and burned chemicals at its base to create the impression of a smoldering meteorite crater.
News of the apparent strike attracted worldwide media attention on Monday as Latvian security forces cordoned off the area to conduct radiation tests.
A spokesman for Tele2's Latvian unit said the stunt had been intended to distract attention from the country's economic crisis and give people something "creative and exciting" to talk about.
But the Latvian government, battling against the deepest recession in the European Union, was not amused and said it would cut its contract with the company in protest.
"The Interior Ministry doesn't want to do business with a firm that promotes itself at our expense," said Interior Minister Linda Murniece (New Era).
Scientists grew skeptical as they started inspecting the symmetrically shaped, 3-meter-deep pit and cynics questioned why a camera crew had been on hand to video the smoking crater.
Pernilla Oldmark, spokesman for Tele2 in Stockholm, said the stunt had been intended to kick off a forthcoming marketing campaign. "The message will become clear as soon as the concept is launched," she said, while apologizing for the disruption caused.
Murniece accused Tele2 of "cynical mockery" at the expense of Latvians and police said they were launching a formal investigation that could lead to criminal charges.