RIGA 's Interior Minister Eriks Jekabsons has announced his intention to resign, citing the ongoing crisis in Latvia's police system and the government's unwilling to raise police wages.
Arno Pjatkins, an aide to Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, was quoted as saying that Jekabsons has already briefed the Cabinet chief about his decision and that Kalvitis would accept the resignation.
An Interior Ministry representative said, "Jekabsons is planning to step down, thus assuming responsibility for the crisis in the interior system and state budget, for the insufficient funding for policemen's salaries. The next year's budget does not solve the problem on its merits."
However, there has been intense speculation that Jekabsons stepped down due to the recent visit by Boris Berezovsky, the former Russian oligarch who is wanted by Russian law enforcement agencies and is living in exile in London. Top politicians questioned Jekabsons' judgment on Berezovsky to enter the country 's it was the billionaire's second visit to Latvia this year 's including the president and prime minister.
Indeed, Jekabsons allegedly told Kalvitis about his intention to step down after the National Security Council that decided to include Berezovsky on the list of persona non grata who should not enter Latvia.
In a televised interview, Jekabsons said, "I would not like to comment on the developments within the National Security Council. The president has spoken about this issue and, as an interior minister, I am not in the position to comment."
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga openly questioned the reasoning for allowing Berezovsky to make a second trip to Latvia.
Vike-Freiberga also criticized the Interior Ministry this week for failing to absorb funds allocated to Latvia for implementing Schengen Treaty-related projects.
Jekabsons defended his decision to let Berezovsky come to Latvia by saying the former oligarch is not a threat to Latvia.
But as Jekabsons aide explained, the minister did not step down earlier for the sake of stability, whereas he chose a date closer to parliamentary approval of the budget in order to make the desired effect.
The ministerial post is expected to remain with Latvia's First Party, which Jekabsons helped create.