Latvia expels Russian diplomat

  • 2008-01-22
  • In cooperation with BNS

KICKED OUT: Russia is likely to respond by expelling a Latvian diplomat from Moscow (Photo: Mike Collier)

RIGA -- Latvia has decided to expel an employee of the Russian embassy inRiga for activities incompatible with the status of diplomat, the LatvianForeign Ministry said on Jan. 21.

The Foreign Ministry said it received information from security services suggestingthat the diplomat poses a threat to Latvia's security.

On Monday, Russian ambassador to Latvia Viktor Kalyuzny was invited to thedesk of Latvian Foreign Ministry state secretary Edgars Skuja who handed him anote citing information from Latvian security services, that one of Russiandiplomats working in Latvia poses a threat to national security 'sdiplomatic-speak for an accusation of spying.

If espionage is indeed the reason for the expulsion, it would be somewhat ironic given recent Russian complaints  that the Baltic states are actively engaged in spying on Russia.

Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, this diplomat hasbeen declared "persona non grata", the ministry said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivars Lasis noted that although in line withdiplomatic practice a return measure could be expected from the state whosediplomat has been asked to leave the host country, the Latvian Foreign Ministrybelieves that "employees of our embassy do not violate the ViennaConvention". If Russia, nevertheless, decides to expel a Latvian diplomat,the ministry will assess the decision, he added.

The Russian diplomat has been asked to leave Latvia "in the nearestfuture".

Iveta Maura, a representative of the Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau(SAB), confirmed the Foreign Ministry's information that a Russian diplomat hasbeen declared "persona non grata" and that the Russian embassy hasbeen requested to ensure that this person leaves Latvia within 48 hours.

Performing its counter-intelligence work SAB has obtained what it believesto be strong evidence of the diplomat's illicit activities in violation of theVienna Convention.

Maura confirmed that the expelled diplomat was not Anatoly Kogalov, firstsecretary of the Russian embassy in Riga, who has been put on the blacklist ofthe Schengen member states. She declined though to reveal how long the diplomathad been working in Latvia and in what kind of activities he had been involved.

Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis told the press that he has beeninformed about the expulsion and was aware of the diplomat's identity, butdeclined to give any further comments.

A Russian diplomat was last expelled from Latvia in 2004 for attempts to spyon NATO militaryinfrastructure. This was the first expulsion of a foreign diplomat in Latvia'shistory.

Responding to the news, the Russian ForeignMinistry expressed incomprehension and promised a reaction.

"The decision of Latvian authorities to announce one of the diplomatsof Russian embassy to Latvia to be a persona non grata causes a lack ofunderstanding. We are currently analyzing the circumstances of this hostilemove and reserve the right to perform an adequate response," said astatement from Mihail Kaminin, an official representative of the RussianForeign Ministry.