Foreign Ministry suspects politically motivated Russian targeting of Latvian citizens in CIS countries

  • 2023-10-02
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Russia may have illegally initiated targeting of Latvian citizens in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for political reasons, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told LETA.

According to the MFA, Russia may have taken actions within the CIS to target current and former Latvian officials who have participated in decisions aimed at condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine and reducing Russia's influence in European Union (EU) member states.

The Latvian side came to this conclusion because last weekend the MFA had to intervene and provide assistance to a Latvian national who had been requested by the Russian authorities to be detained during his visit to one of the CIS countries.

The MFA does not specify which Latvian public and political figure was detained, nor in which CIS country the incident took place. However, it has since been made clear that the person in question is former MP and minister Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis, who confirmed this himself to LETA.

Dombrovskis told LETA that he was hired to work at the OSCE Academy in Kyrgyzstan, where he worked for a month. On Friday, he was due to go to the institution, but by a lucky coincidence Dombrovskis was delayed. In the meantime, he received information that he was both wanted at his declared place of residence in Kyrgyzstan and expected at the academy. "I cannot say who alerted me, but they told me that serious people were looking for me," Dombrovskis revealed.

When he heard about the situation, he did not go to the academy and tried to find out how to get out of the situation and back to Latvia.

There is no Latvian embassy in Kyrgyzstan, so Dombrovskis turned to the Latvian embassy in Kazakhstan, "which responded in a flash". "The next 24 hours were like a spy movie," Dombrovskis said, without revealing further details. It took him less than a day to get out of Kyrgyzstan and another day to get to Latvia, where he arrived by plane. The former politician said that "a certain degree of joint effort" came also from Kyrgyzstan. He is glad that the situation was resolved, as things could have ended much worse.

Asked what the motives could have been for targeting him in this way, Dombrovskis reminded that he was one of the majority of the Saeima that voted in favor of taking down the Soviet monument in Riga. He agrees that leaving the EU and NATO for other countries in the sphere of influence poses a real risk to Latvian officials who have spoken out against Russian aggression.

The CIS was created after the collapse of the Soviet Union, essentially on Russia's initiative, involving almost all countries that gained independence after the collapse of the USSR, except the Baltic States, which were strongly oriented towards integration into the collective structures of Western countries. Following Russia's military offensive, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Moldova are currently the only countries left in the CIS, although Moldova is moving towards leaving the organization.

Dombrovskis will no longer travel to the academy in Kyrgyzstan and will work remotely.

According to the information available to the MFA, the detention request for the Latvian national was not issued in accordance with generally accepted international practice and was politically motivated. The person was detained, but thanks to the actions of the Latvian foreign service and the constructive cooperation of the CIS country concerned, the Latvian national was successfully and promptly returned to Latvia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is carrying out an in-depth analysis of the particular case, but it can already be assumed that such measures on the part of the Russian Federation may be directed at not only Latvian officials, but also other undesirable present and former officials of EU Member States. It cannot be excluded that such requests are issued to not only CIS countries, but also other countries that Russia has good cooperation with.

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also discuss this case within the framework of the EU and other international organizations in order to prevent further illegal, politically motivated actions by the Russian authorities against EU nationals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminds Latvian nationals to choose their travel destinations carefully, taking into account the historical ties of the countries and their cooperation with Russia, as well as the position of the said countries regarding Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

The Ministry also draws attention to the fact that its capacity to provide consular assistance in emergency situations in foreign countries where there is no Latvian representation may be limited.