RIGA - Latvian public television canceled a documentary about Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been scheduled due to air Dec. 1 's the night before Russian parliamentary elections took place.
The news triggered a wave of speculation and accusations, particularly from the country's ethnic Russian community.
Media reported that the movie was canceled due to pressure from the Russian Embassy to postpone the airing, but the station's director and Latvia's foreign minister denied the reports, claiming that the show was delayed due to "technical problems."
In Russia, it is forbidden for local media to discuss political figures or political parties on the day before an election and during the polling period, though this of course has no bearing on Latvia.
Many Russian citizens living in Latvia did, however, cast their ballot on Dec. 2.
The movie, titled "Putin's System," was eventually shown on Dec. 4 in the evening.
Still, the incident raised questions about the independence of Latvian public television, forcing even President Valdis Zatlers to weigh in on the matter.
LTV channel seven director Arnis Kupriss denied any undue pressure to the Baltic News Service. "I can assure you that no pressure has been brought to bear on me. Technical problems are common in television, and that is what happened this time," he said.
Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins also said that the ministry had not been pressured, saying that it was impossible for the ministry to affect television program scheduling.
"I would consider it absolutely unacceptable for the Foreign Ministry to tell any media what to publish or broadcast. I do not think something like that is possible in Latvia," he said.
LTV's general director said there would be no harm in delaying the film another week, and that the rumors surrounding the Russian Embassy's involvement in the delay was a "tempest in a teacup."
The documentary, filmed by French Director Jean Michel Carre, details Putin's rise to power from his time in the KGB to present day. Putin's activities are discussed by independent experts, political opponents and colleagues.