RIGA - Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to order partial mobilization of reservists does not increase the level of military threat to Latvia, however, Latvia must be prepared in case Russian citizens subject to mobilization seek asylum here, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For) told LETA.
Speaking of how the Western countries should react to Putin's statement, Pabriks said that, all in all, nothing should change, that is, leaders of the Western countries should say with one voice that the fake referendums planned by Russia in Ukraine would not be recognized, and continue to support Ukraine's territorial integrity. In addition, Western countries should continue supporting Ukraine in every way and to the maximum extent possible. At the same time, Putin's statement today should also be discussed at the level of NATO leaders, believes Pabriks.
In his opinion, the statement by Putin largely means that, on the one hand, Russia wants to see "who will be the first to waver in the West". On the other hand, it also suggests that Russia has not been able to achieve its military or political goals in Ukraine. "This means that they will try to tighten the screws a little more in Russia itself," the minister added.
Putin's statement has not increased the level of military threat to Latvia "because we know what is happening on their side". Latvia closely cooperates with NATO allies in monitoring and assessing the situation.
The only thing that Latvia has to clear up, in both the political and social terms, is the action to be taken in the event Russian refugees or asylum seekers who do not want to join the Russian army appear at Latvia's borders. "On the one hand, there are international norms according to which we should consider these asylum applications, but on the other hand, it has to be understood that the majority of Russian people do not oppose Putin's regime and do not support our values. We also cannot know what they are actually thinking, they may try to infiltrate our country in different ways," said Pabriks.
He believes that, in the face of such pressure, Latvia should be maximally conservative and cautious in reviewing asylum applications.
At the same time, Pabriks pointed out that there are other countries where Russians to be mobilized can go to, countries where Russian citizens can visit without a visa. He also said that the State Border Guard kept the situation under control. If necessary, the Armed Forces will be there to help the Border Guard, he added.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) announced on social networks that due to security reasons, Latvia will not issue humanitarian or other visas to those Russian citizens who avoid mobilization, nor will it change the border crossing restrictions introduced since September 19 for Russian citizens with Schengen visas.
Latvia will consult with allies and partners on joint action in connection with the mobilization initiated by Russia. It is necessary to discuss further support for Ukraine and discuss possible additional security measures in the region, said Rinkevics.
"We must not give in to his [Putin's] blackmail and must support Ukraine as much as we can. Russia today is as dangerous to Europe and world peace as Nazi Germany was in the last century," said Rinkevics.
Interior Minister Kristaps Eklons (For Development) assured to LETA that internal affairs services are ready for the development of the situation. Action plans of different levels have been developed in the Ministry of Interior and approved by the government, depending on the number of asylum seekers. The border is under increased surveillance to prevent any attempts to cross it illegally.
If asylum applications are received, the responsible services will evaluate them very carefully, Eklons said.
Latvian Ambassador to Russia Maris Riekstins told Latvian Television that the Embassy of Latvia in Moscow has received requests for political asylum by e-mail from Russian citizens subject to mobilization.
Riekstins emphasized that the decision on the granting of political asylum is not made within a few minutes or days. Currently, the embassy examines each e-mail and forwards it to Riga for evaluation, whether the specific case meets the criteria for political asylum.
Riekstins explained that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the decision on whether or not to issue visas to Russian citizens was not made by one consular employee, but experts from Riga were brought in, who evaluated each individual request, looking both from the arguments of the applicant and also evaluating the interests of the Latvian state.
As reported, in a pre-recorded address to the nation early on Wednesday Putin accused the West of trying to "destroy" his country through its backing of Kyiv, and said Russia needed to support those in Ukraine who wanted to "determine their own future".