RIGA - The controversy surrounding earlier visits by Russian exile Boris Berezovsky, as well as his recent banning, became more muddied last week when the head of Parliament's national security commission, Indulis Emsis, announced that a clandestine network structure was operating in the country, and that billionaire George Soros was part of the conspiracy.
Emsis, a member of the Greens and Farmers Union and a former prime minister, said he would consult foreign security agencies as to the possible existence of a secret anti-democratic group in the Baltic state.
The group, or so he claimed, has exercised power partly through the Soros foundation and other NGOs. The "network structure" does not confine itself simply to Latvia's borders, but exists in a number of "new democracies" the head of Parliament's national security committee explained.
He mentioned former Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas' impeachment and the Ukrainian orange revolution as examples of the types of work sown by clock and dagger.
"The Soros Foundation's goal to attack coincides with the state's unfavorable goals 's that is to discredit the state and its official structures," Emsis told the Baltic News Service on Oct. 30.
He said that he wanted to determine and identify "this web's conductors, and their intentions." One goal, he said, might be to torpedo Latvia's chances of hosting an upcoming NATO summit.
Emsis' attack was followed by an equally strong statement by Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, who called Latvia "a Soros subsidiary." Lembergs is believed to be a major financial supporter of the Greens and Farmers Union.
The comments were preceded and complemented by similar accusations from Berezovsky himself, who held that Soros was personally responsible for his blacklisting.
Soros and Berezovsky were once allies but had a falling out in 1997.
This is not the first time conspiracy theories have been pinned on Soros. After a public outcry last year when Sandra Kalniete was replaced by Ingrida Udre, a Greens and Farmers Union member, as the country's candidate to the European Commission. Ruling coalition leaders blamed Soros and NGOs for fomenting popular dissent. Even President Vaira Vike-Freiberga was dragged into the web of finger-pointing.
Udre, stymied by charges of alleged corruption, was eventually forced to step down and replaced by Andris Piebalgs.
As then, the main disseminator of the conspiracy is Neatkariga Rita Avize, a Latvian language daily belonging to a media group widely perceived to be under Lembergs' control. (Udre has in the past admitted to this paper that her party has received funding from Lembergs.)
But the ever-illustrious Emsis has created a great deal of confusion, much of it linguistic. When asked about the alleged threat that Berezovsky poses to the country, he replied that the threat was as relevant as the number of dead goats in the town of Allazi. When queried about the term "subsistence minimum" by the Latvian television program Panorama, he answered, "Subsistence minimum 's why is this phrase not used in other countries 's subsistence minimum? Because I, as a biologist, know that a subsistence minimum is a phrase used in a land of animals and not in society. Because how can one count the subsistence minimum?"
After Berezovksy's last visit 's his second this year 's he was blacklisted upon recommendation of the National Security Council. Former Interior Minister Eriks Jekabsons, who met with the deposed oligarch on both occasions, resigned after the council's decision, though he said it had nothing to do with Berezovsky. He did, however, say that by banning the exiled businessman, Latvia was kowtowing to the Kremlin, which wants Berezovsky extradited to Russia to answer for charges of fraud and misappropriation of state assets.