Swedish telecoms firm admits to Latvia meteorite hoax

Swedish-owned telecoms company Tele2 admitted on Monday it was responsible for staging a meteorite crash near a small village in the Latvian countryside.

Swedish telecoms firm admits to Latvia meteorite hoax

“Our goal is to inspire the people of Latvia,” Janis Sprogis, a spokesperson for Tele2’s operations in Latvia, told the Latvian news agency LETA regarding the motivation behind the company’s hoax.

Residents in Mazsalaca, a town located near the Estonian border, were startled on Sunday evening by a streak of light that zoomed across the sky, followed by a loud crash, setting the ground on fire.

Emergency crews arrived on the scene to find a 10 metre-wide crater, still smoldering at the centre.

The scene led some officials to speculate the explosion had been caused by a meteorite, according to several media reports.

But experts soon cast doubt on the meteorite theory, citing the supposed meteorite’s all-too-perfect characteristics.

“This is not a real crater. It is artificial,” Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre, told the Associated Press.

On Monday, telecoms operator Tele2 confirmed its role in carrying out the stunt, which Latvian Interior Minister Linda Murniece called “cynical mockery”, according to the AFP news agency.

According to Tele2’s Sprogis, the stunt was a ploy to help direct the world’s attention toward the troubled Baltic country as it struggles with a prolonged economic downturn.

“As we can see, with this Latvia made the news all over the world, everyone wants to know about Latvia, and this is not because of the crisis, the hard times and so, but because there is something creative and exciting happening here. It is a unique achievement and part of our communication,” he said.

While Sprogis added that Tele2 will reimburse Latvian emergency services who responded to the fake meteorite, Latvian police have said they are launching a formal investigation which could lead to formal criminal charges.

But a spokesperson for the Latvian embassy in Stockholm attempted to play down the incident.

“The most important thing is that no one was hurt, no damage was done and Tele2 has promised to reimburse the government for all expenses incurred by the police and fire department personnel,” embassy press attaché Zane Malniece told The Local.

A YouTube clip recorded at scene of the bluff meteorite crash-site:

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Tele2 and Comviq mobile blackout cuts off Swedish users abroad

If you've been having trouble getting your mobile to work outside Sweden since Friday, this may be the reason why.

Tele2 and Comviq mobile blackout cuts off Swedish users abroad
Photo: TT

Swedish prepaid mobile phone brand Comviq and its European holding company Tele2 are experiencing serious problems with their overseas networks. 

The unexpected glitch means Swedish customers abroad are experiencing difficulties when placing and receiving calls, texting and browsing the internet, a situation that’s gone on for more than 24 hours.

“It's deeply regrettable,” admits Tele2 media spokesperson Johan von Heijne.

“We urge those who need to get in touch with people to look for places with Wifi instead.”

Tele2 and Comviq’s networks continued to experience problems on Saturday with no apparent solution in sight.

“We have no new information yet,” von Heijne is quoted as saying by Swedish news agency TT.


To make matters worse, Tele2's website is down.

“This is an unfortunate coincidence. But we’re reaching out to our customers through our other channels, ” explained von Heijne.

Tele2 started as a telecommunications company in Sweden in 1993 and currently operates in Sweden, Croatia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Russia and Germany.

Comviq merged with Tele2 in 1997, but the name Comviq was retained as a brand, together with Tele2's own brand Tele2 Mobile.