Latvian President Andris Berzins has asked the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill to postpone his visit to Latvia, originally planned for May, until a later date, reported Latvian State Television on April 2.
Berzins' spokeswoman Liga Krapane said that the president was not asking the patriarch to cancel his visit but move it to a later date, most probably to the fall.
This is due to the developments in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as Russia's political course, admitted Krapane.
Patriarch Kirill plays a special role in the Russian president's official routines. During ceremonious events in the Kremlin, he is sitting next to President Vladimir Putin. For Russia, the patriarch presents a way to maintain the dialog with countries where Orthodox Church is associated with the Moscow Patriarchate but where the Russian president has not paid state visits.
Patriarch Kirill has avoided commenting on the developments in Ukraine, but he condemned Orthodox clergymen who had sided with the Maidan protesters. In November 2012, Patriarch Kirill expressed concern about the "fate of non-citizens and the rebirth of neo-Nazism" in Latvia, as well as expressed support for Russian to become a second state language in Latvia.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Patriarch Kirill was accused of having links to the KGB during the Soviet period. Also, when accused of wearing an expensive Swiss watch, Kirill denied having worn it, saying that any photographs showing him wearing it must be fakes. However, photographs on his official website showed it on his wrist and one even showed it airbrushed out, but with a reflection of it still visible on a table surface.
Kirill's visit to Latvia was announced by Latvian Foreign Ministry's representative Karlis Eihenbaums in December 2013. At the beginning of this year, Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Veshnyakov confirmed that Kirill would visit Latvia in May. During the visit, Kirill was expected to meet with Berzins, Saeima Chairwoman Solvita Aboltina (Unity) and Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma (Unity).