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Latvia's information warfare

On the eve of joining the EU, Latvian government is  doing its best to demonstrate Russia that Latvia’s authority in the world has grown significantly.
There is an impression that Latvia bases its relations with Moscow оn the principle “we are big now, the entire Europe is backing us.

Riga took over the initiative in the “information warfare”. The reason was found: on April 20 a group of some “skinheads” (they were called so in the press release of Latvian Embassy in Russia) organized demonstration near Latvian Consulate in Russian city Pskov. In fact, this was a minor event, local press did even not mention this demonstration, but Latvian Embassy had different opinion and expressed its protest to Moscow.  Submitting a note of protest is usual practice in diplomacy, but Latvian Foreign Ministry went further and submitted its information to all big Russian media outlets.

The prepared information is good example of distorting facts. “The radical outlook within Russian society raises concerns in the neighboring country”, Latvian diplomats start their sad narration. As the example of the “radical outlook” they name the murder of the Tajik girl in St. Petersburg, African student in Voronezh and similar incidents.

Russia was also criticized for its condemnation of the marches of the former Nazi soldiers which are organized in Latvia on a regular basis. As “skinheads” conducted their action on Hitler’s birthday in Russia, Russian authorities “must react on the incidents of this sort in their own country”. The demonstration near Latvian Embassy on April 20 is the “example of Anti-Semitism growth in Russia”. The statement does not elaborate how Anti-Semitism relates to Latvia and its Consulate.  No other examples of the “Anti-Semitism growth” are given.

The next day after making its statement, Latvian Foreign Ministry reported that a Russian diplomat had been announced “persona non grata” because he allegedly was gathering information about NATO military structure. Latvia became the last of the Baltic states which detected a “spy”. Before this Lithuania and Estonia detected “spies” as well – remarkably, it happened on the eve of their joining NATO. Soviet habit of attaching event to some important date is still alive.

Latvian authorities undertook one more step – they started new session of legal hearing of the case of Vasily Kononov (who was a partisan fighting fascists during  the Great Patriotic War). Latvian officials are well-aware of Russia’s negative attitude to this case.  Latvian law-enforcers have been after Vasily Kononov for several years. In 2000 he was sentenced for 6 years of imprisonment, but Latvian Supreme Court released the former Soviet partisan from imprisonment, his case was sent for supplementary examination and another legal hearing. In October 2003 Latgalsky District Court changed the charges of military crimes to the charges of committing bandit deeds, and released Vasily Kononov from punishment because about 60 years passed after his alleged crime.

Latvian Office of Public prosecutor appealed this court verdict. The appeal was submitted on October 25, 2003, but the Supreme Court started to examine it only now, on the eve of Russian Victory Day (May 9).

Latvian authorities seem to do everything possible to make the EU “actively participate in developing NATO policy towards Russia”. Latvian Foreign Minister Richard Rix said, “We can advise our European partners how to speak with Russia and how to understand it. Brussels tradition is having frank conversations. Russian tradition is different – speak one thing, think another thing”. One can imagine the advise Mr. Rix can provide...