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Wednesday 13.12.2017 | Name days: Veldze, Lūcija
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Latvian municipalities have cooperated with NGO’s with ties to Russian special services

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Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau has uncovered that Russian intelligence services often work under cover of state and municipal companies and NGOs. One such organization calls two municipalities in Latgale as their cooperation partners.

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUSummer and winter schools organized for matters related to Russian foreign and security affairs, visits of journalists to Russia and scientific conferences. These are only some of the events organized by four Russian NGOs: Kaliningrad public-political research center, Russkaya Baltika, St Petersburg International and Regional Policy Centre, Russian-Baltic Media Centre and Russian Strategic Research Centre. IN the opinion of Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau, all of these organizations ‘are being used as platforms for activities of Russian special services’. Intelligence services use them to establish contacts with Latvian representatives, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

For example, Russian-Baltic Media Centre calls the management board of Ventspils Freeport as one of its cooperation partners. As part of Baltic Forum Conference, which mostly gathers those loyal to Kremlin’s policy, had organized a visit of Russian journalists to Ventspils Freeport. «It is possible that this visit could have been the reason for them to add the management board of Ventspils Freeport to their list of cooperation partners. I do not have any information regarding any former or existing cooperation examples with this organization,» – notes Ventspils Freeport public relations manager Inga Ieviņa.

Russian-Baltic Media Centre calls two municipalities in Latgale as its cooperation partners. One of them is located in Rezekne. Rezekne City Council’s public relations specialist Sanita Aizupiete says that «it was two or more years ago. They had organized media conferences here. They’ve not done so in the past two years.» There had also been several events in Daugavpils – film shows and participation of journalists in a tourism conference. Daugavpils City Council had had difficulties with recalling any cooperation with Russian-Baltic Media Centre. The organization’s website does not help either. «I cannot comment at all. We have no contracts whatsoever!» – said Daugavpils City Council public relations department manager Inese Andiņa. After speaking with colleagues, Andiņa recalled that representatives of this organization were brought in by co-owners of gorod.lv. Owners of the portal do not deny the fact that they are still working with Russian-Baltic Media Centre. The organization’s alleged ties with Russian intelligence services owners of the portal call «absurd». However, it is the head of this centre Igor Pavlovski and activist Modest Kolerov who are included on the blacklist. After their visit to Latvia, which was organized by gorod.lv, they have been denied entry to the country.

Co-owner of gorod.lv Yelena Kuranova says that they had «organized a meeting in a Polish community. Then there was a visit to the Russian consulate and city council. It was like this – we came in, greeted everyone, exchanged a few words and left. We then went to our summer home, where we rested. Igor Pavlovski had come with us solely to spend time in a good company, because Modest would have been bored coming here alone. This is why he has taken the fall for us as well. Because of this, I am afraid of what’s happening in our country. As far as I’m aware, residents who leave the country are also afraid.»

Nevertheless, Kolerov is not as guiltless as Kuranova makes him seem. In his articles about Latvia and Baltic States, he describes them as enemies of Russia. In addition, after Daugavpils, Kolerov had been carried to Riga using Saeima service car, which was registered behind Harmony Centre at the time.

Russian-Baltic Media Centre also works closely with the Baltic Forum. Its president is Harmony’s politician Jānis Urbanovičs. Prior to the gathering of signatures for Russian language to be made second state language in Latvia, Igor Pimenov took part in an event organized by Russkaya Baltika. The main topic at the time was whether or not Russian language and culture is an opportunity or a problem in Baltic States. «I do not know anything about this. I do not know what centre you mean,’ – said Pimenov. However, when told a specific time and place, he recalled that he had attended an event in Kaliningrad: ‘Yes, I participated in that conference. Definitely, absolutely! I do not remember, however, who organized it.»

But it is not as though events organized by people with ties to Russian intelligence services are attended solely by activists and supporters of Kremlin’s ideas. Foreign policy expert Andris Sprūds has also taken part in them. In a telephone conversation with the programme, he revealed that a summer school that discussed matters related to security, economics and energy nine years ago was the last for him: he is no longer given a visa to enter Russia. «If I am no longer allowed to enter Russia, it is possibly because it is hard to convince me or because I am not liked there. Our neighbours are what they are. Like it or not, but we have to form relations in the fields of business, energy, diplomacy and academics,» – said Sprūds.

Professor Juris Rozenvalds, who had attended such events in Russia, notes that there is no competition for propaganda slogans. He says actual scientific talks held there.

Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau mentions the possibility of Russian intelligence services to contact Latvian citizens during such events. «It is possible that there is some form of personal interest. I also assume that whatever I may say about the situation in Latvia may end up being used by one of my colleagues there as a citation, and this is another things altogether,» – says Rozenvalds. What is interesting is that the event that was attended by Rozenvalds was organized by Russkaya Baltica in Kaliningrad. The invitation Rozenvalds received was sent from the university where the conference had taken place. This makes it difficult for participants to know the exact organizers of different events.

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