World » Former USSR
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Latvia sets up committee to calculate 'Soviet occupation' damages

Latvian officials forgot that Russia had already paid the foreign debt of the former Soviet Republic of Latvia

Latvia established a governmental committee to determine the amount of the damage, which the country had suffered during the years of the so-called “Soviet occupation,” as Latvian officials put it.

The Latvian Cabinet of Ministers fulfilled the instructions of the national parliament, which previously approved the declaration about the denunciation of the totalitarian occupation regime that the USSR established in Latvia. The document entrusted the government with setting up a committee of specialists to determine the number of victims caused with the USSR's occupational regime and calculating the damages, which Latvia and Latvian citizens suffered as a result. The committee will have to report its work to the government during the forthcoming three months.

Edmund Stankevich, a legal expert, who chairs the Latvian committee, is not sure how much time it will take specialists to calculate the damage. The committee consists of 17 officials from Latvian ministerial departments, special services and law-enforcement authorities. Committee members are currently studying the previous experience on the matter in order to find out how and on which grounds such calculations can be made.

Latvian journalists have already expressed their opinion on the financial amount of the damage, which Latvia should claim from Russia. Latvijas Avize, the largest newspaper of Latvia, wrote that doctor of economic sciences, Modris Shmurles, calculated in 1990 that Latvia had suffered 63 billion rubles of damages. A larger sum – 83.9 billion rubles ($46.6 billion) was exposed to the general public in 1991, which was then followed with $60 and $100 billion of damages. It is noteworthy that the entire state budget of Latvia makes up about five billion dollars.

”Speaking of practical matters, 20 billion dollars is the minimum amount. The minimum! One should ask for a billion dollars for each year of the occupation!” a deputy of the Latvian parliament, Leopold Ozolinysh said. The deputy is considered one of the most vehement fighters for recognition of Latvia's “occupation.”

The Russian government does not think that 'occupation' is an appropriate word in this case. All international legal formalities were observed at the time, when the three Baltic republics joined the USSR in 1940. In addition, President Putin earnestly asked the Latvian government not to touch upon this issue again: “We believe that the question is closed,” Putin said after the meeting with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on May 9 of the current year in Moscow.

However, the House of Representatives of the US Congress said that Russia should acknowledge and denounce the Soviet occupation of Baltic states. To all appearance, Latvian officials found such a remark from US authorities rather uplifting and proceeded with their initiative.

A lot of skeptic observers say that Latvia uses the current history dispute to disguise its financial interests. One should remind Latvia that Russia pays someone else's bills already. When the USSR broke up in the beginning of the 1990s, Russia undertook to pay foreign debts of all republics of the collapsing superpower, including the debts of Baltic states.