Security Service suspects Moscow House's management of breaching EU sanctions

  • 2023-12-22
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The State Security Service this week raided the premises of the Moscow House in Riga on suspicions of a breach of the European Union's (EU) sanctions, LETA was told at the Security Service. 

The searches at the Moscow House were conducted on Thursday and Friday as part of a criminal probe started on November 23.

The investigation has established that the Moscow House's management probably continued to earn proceeds from the premises the use of which was prohibited under international sanctions. 

An individual's residence was also searched as part of the criminal probe, and a large number of data hardware and documents were seized during the searches, the Security Service said. Criminal proceedings have so far been started against one person. 

As reported, a bill providing for a takeover of Moscow House at 7 Marijas Street in Riga by the Latvian state is currently making its way through the Saeima. 

The draft law is intended to ensure Latvia's national security, including by a timely prevention of threats to Latvia's democratic order.

According to the authors of the draft law, it will ensure that political activities that may threaten Latvia's national security and that take place under the guise of cultural events and interest education in Moscow House will be stopped, Moscow House as a "brand" of Russian compatriots' politics will be closed and the threat to Latvia's statehood and national security will be prevented.

The international sanctions introduced against Russia have made it more difficult for Moscow House to operate, but have not completely curtailed or stopped them. The State Security Service has noted that, even after February 24, 2022, the premises of Moscow House have been leased to persons whose activities suggest of support for Russia's aggressive foreign policy.

As Moscow House has been serving as a venue for hostile and harmful activities for a long time and the concentration of such dangerous political ideas threatens the security of the Latvian state and its democratic order, Latvia is obliged to take active measures against the existence of a venue supporting such activities, the annotation of the draft law states.

Moscow House officially belongs to the Property Department of Moscow City. JSC Moscow Culture and Business Centre Moscow House, owned by Moscow City's Property Department, has historically been Moscow House's legal representative. Since March 10, 2020 this function has been taken over by the State Unitary Enterprise Moscow Centre for International Cooperation. Its rights to use the property indefinitely has been registered in the Land Register of Latvia. The structure of both these legal entities is linked to a direct influence of Russia and Moscow, according to the annotation to the draft law.

The transitional provision of the draft law stipulates that the Cabinet of Ministers has until March 31, 2024 to submit a report to the Saeima on the further management of the property. The authors of the bill suggest using the property to provide assistance to Ukraine or Ukrainians, taking into account that Latvia has no intention to enrich itself or benefit from the takeover of Moscow House.