Border treaty continues to vex Russia, Latvia

  • 2005-05-04
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - Debate over the much-maligned border treaty between Latvia and Russia did not abate last week, with Russia stating its intention not to sign the document unless Latvia withdraws a declaration highlighting the consequences of Soviet occupation and Moscow's liability in eliminating them.

Meanwhile, a former Russian Foreign Ministry official has called for the resignation of Ambassador to Latvia Viktor Kalyuzhny since he failed to inform Moscow of Latvia's intention to attach the declaration to the border treaty, which otherwise should be ready for signatures on May 10.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said, "The text of the declaration made public by Latvia's foreign minister [Artis Pabriks] on April 26 indeed means that territorial claims are made upon Russia, thus removing the object and goal of the border treaty between the two countries."

"Signing the border treaty on unilateral terms set out by Riga loses all sensibility," the statement went on to claim. "We will be ready to sign the treaty as soon as the Latvian party drops its unacceptable declaration."

Moscow also bristled at the declaration's mentioning of the occupation. "Moreover, the declaration states that Latvia does not link signing the border treaty to the broader issue of liquidating the consequences of the country's 'illegal occupation,'" the Russian Foreign Ministry noted. "It causes deep regret because Russia was ready to sign the border treaty without waiting until work on a joint political document between Latvia and Russia on underlying principles was completed."

Pursuant to the declaration, Latvia claims that the treaty does not concern, reduce or take away the rights provided to Latvia's nationals under international law, including the Latvian-Russian Peace Treaty of 1920, and Latvia's rights and legal claims allowed under international law. In accordance with the Peace Treaty of 1920, the former county of Abrene (presently Pytalovo) is also part of Latvian territory but was added to Russia after WWII.

Normans Penke, state secretary for Latvia's Foreign Ministry, told the Baltic News Service that Latvia would attempt to explain the reasons for working out the declaration. "This declaration has nothing to do with signing the border treaty in Moscow on May 10. The aim of the declaration is to unilaterally outline our perception of history and continuity of the state," said Penke.

Foreign Minister Pabriks said last week that Latvia could agree to Russia's proposal to sign the border treaty on May 10, and the government approved that Pabriks sign the document on behalf of the country.

In Moscow, intrigue over the declaration escalated into a call for resignation. Mikhail Demurin, a former Foreign Ministry official in charge of Baltic policy, said Russia should recall its ambassador to Latvia, Viktor Kalyuzhny, since the latter failed to warn officials of the forthcoming declaration.

Demurin said in an interview to the Regnum news agency that he specifically drew attention to the Russian Foreign Ministry statement earlier in the week 's "the intention of Riga to add the unilateral declaration as a condition to signing the border treaty was completely unexpected for us" 's as the basis for his recommendation.

"If an ambassador in a country not unimportant to us doesn't have information about intentions threatening the international prestige of our country and, possibly, its national security, he must be recalled for incompetence. If he knew about it but did not inform the government in due time, reasons for him acting in this way should be discovered," said Demurin.

He said it was already known in 1997 that Latvia wanted to attach a document to the border treaty that reduced the importance of the border treaty "to zero" and left it with a chance to keep territorial claims on Russia. The Russian Embassy in Riga at the time reported this to Moscow on a regular basis. The Latvians were told in no uncertain terms that all discussions on signing a treaty would be possible only after they confirmed that such a scenario was impossible, Demurin said.

"Should we adopt a unilateral declaration demanding that Riga apologize for 15 years of discrimination against our compatriots and atrocities of the Latvian SS Legion against the Soviet people during WW II?" asked Demurin.

He added that, judging by the tone of the ministry's statement, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would not sign the document with Latvia's declaration.

Demurin recently resigned his post in the Foreign Ministry in protest of the Kremlin's abrupt shift in policy toward Latvia. Whereas earlier Moscow linked any border treaty with a statement on the treatment of minorities in Latvia, President Vladimir Putin last year decided to delink the two issues. At the time, Demurin said that he had built up his department on the strength of that linkage and did not want to be responsible for orchestrating the policy shift.