Shtab turns to local radical groups for support

  • 2005-09-07
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - Ainars Latkovskis, Latvia's special task minister for social integration, reported that the radical organization Shtab, known for its extreme measures against the education reform, was supported by members of the National Bolshevik Party and another Russian radical group.

Continuing their battle against last year's education reform, which mandates that 60 percent of classes in minority schools take place in the Latvian language, Shtab has begun negotiating with the National Bolshevik Party and a local Russian group formerly known as the Barkashovians, Latkovskis told the Baltic News Service. The government has banned both of these organizations for their radical views.

In an interview with Latvijas Avize daily, the minister said that Shtab had invited members of these two groups to join protests and incite incidents.

"Shtab wants to achieve an increased radicalism among school students, but the youngsters tend to abandon the Shtab's initiative in growing numbers. This has been confirmed by a peaceful first day of school in Riga," said Latkovskis.

In Latvia the school year begins on Sept. 1, and is traditionally a day of celebration where students dress up and bring flowers to their new teachers. Last year, opponents of the education reform staged mass protests, however no demonstrations took place this year.

Latkovskis told the Baltic News Service that he refused to engage in dialogue with Shtab leaders. However, the organization remains a problem for society.

"The more radical they grow, the more work there will be for Security Police, said Latkovskis.

Shtab is hoping to receive 140,000 lats (200,000 eurs) from New Eurasia, a foundation recently established in Moscow, Latkovskis added.

"They want to get the money in order to involve young people in their political games under the pretence of educating them," the task minister said, adding that he was surprised to discover that, in addition to Moscow, the foundation was receiving funds from Washington and Brussels.

"It should be said that the purpose of the foundation is to promote development of democracy in Russia, not to support unregistered radical organizations outside Russia. It is possible that the Board of Directors is unaware of the actions by their Russian colleagues," said Latkovskis.

This possibility, he revealed, was confirmed during a telephone conversation with the foundation's representative, former Swedish premier Carl Bildt, who had asked for additional information on developments in Latvia.

Latkovskis said he would address the relationship between Shtab and New Eurasia with U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Catherine Todd Bailey.

"I hope that the donors simply do not know what certain people are doing in Latvia," he added, refusing to disclose the source of Shtab funds.

Security Police were also informed about Shtab's cooperation with local Russian radical groups, said Kristine Apse-Krumina, an aide to the Security Police chief.

"It is true to say that Shtab is cooperating with the National Bolsheviks and Barkashovians," she told the Baltic News Service.

When asked what law enforcers were doing about the negotiations, Apse-Krumina kept mum.

"We are doing our work," she said.