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Wednesday 20.09.2017 | Name days: Marianna, Ginters, Guntra

SP: Russia uses Russian Orthodox Church in order to influence Latvian society

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIslamic radicals that return from war zones create a serious threat to our country. However, the Orthodox church has also increased its influence in Latvia, teaching youngsters and attracting Latvians to their activities, said Chief of Latvia Security Police Normunds Mežviets in his interview to Nekā personīga programme of TV3.

What is the situation with Latvia’s Muslim community? Have there been any radicalisation processes?

Our Muslim community is relatively small compared to other European countries. Members of the Muslim community have integrated well into Latvian society. I will say, however, that certain people we can characterize as extremists come surface from time to time. We keep a close eye on their activities.

How many such people are there? Several? A dozen?

There are multiple people like that. I will not comment on their exact numbers.

Are those people ‘true Muslims’ who had been born into this confession, or are they ones who had taken up this religion later on in life?

There are people who were born into this religion and those who had been converted.

How is recruitment of Muslims living in Latvia to go fight in conflicts around the world carried out exactly?

Internet and modern technologies unfortunately play a large role in terrorism nowadays. There have been countless cases when people became radicalised on the internet: taking in propaganda spread by Islamic terrorists, contacting people who think the same, creating information exchange networks and finally travelling to areas of armed conflicts in order to take part.

Does this happen to Muslims living in Latvia as well?

There have been some cases. Yes.

Is it possible to use the internet to train people to carry out acts of terror?

Yes. The internet is full of different terrorist training materials, which can teach people to use firearms and create explosives. So it is entirely possible for a person who has not attended any teachings, but is nonetheless radical in his beliefs, to use the internet, become even more radical, contact the ‘right’ people and travel to zones with armed conflicts and become engaged in them. Because such people go unnoticed in the Muslim community, it is hard for special services to gain information about them in order to catch them.

Looking at profiles of people who have requested residence permits, are there people who have come from zones of armed conflicts?

There have been applications submitted by people that come from countries with raging armed conflicts and all of them have been denied.

According to information from the press in regard to Latvian citizens who fight on the side of Ukrainian separatists, these people have come from National Bolsheviks. How do authorities assess activities of members of such organizations?

National Bolsheviks play a major role in the context of the Ukrainian crisis. The proportion of National Bolsheviks among Ukrainian separatists is very large. This movement has been present in Russia for more than 20 years. Originally there had been several thousand people who held this groups ideal very dear. This movement’s infrastructure is used in order to get involved in armed clashes in Ukraine. People are carefully assessed and trained. National Bolsheviks have their own combat units. With that, it is no surprise that SP has picked up on activities of National Bolsheviks in Latvia.

About other possible threats. Non-citizens Congress, For Native Tongue – these organizations had been mentioned in SP’s report for 2014 as organizations that split society and work with ideas of Latgale’s possible separation from the rest of Latvia. How popular are they among Russian-speaking residents in Latvia?

I believe the Non-citizens Congress is not particularly popular among Russian-speakers. I would like to emphasize that the Non-citizens Congress is no even an organization. It is not officially registered anywhere. It is merely a group of people who wish to defend the rights of non-citizens. It is an illegitimate group that has decided that they have been elected by non-citizens to represent them in talks with Latvian government and international institutions. It is not the case. Many Russian-speaking politicians wish to present wishes as reality.

How big is the influence of the Orthodox Church over the opinion of Russian-speakers on current events? How do Russian politicians use this?

The church has very strong ties with the government in Russia. It is a long-standing tradition in Russia. Ties between Russian officials and Orthodox Church have only become stronger in the context of the crisis in Ukraine. Russian Orthodox Church believes that all believers create one whole that has very close ties with Russia and its unique role in the world. Like other confessions in the world, Russian and Latvian Orthodox Church have a specific potential to influence a great number of people.

Is it possible to say that Russia can potentially use Latvian Orthodox Church as one of its tools of influence over Russian-speakers living in Latvia?

I believe there is such a possibility.

How actively do they use this potential?

Lately we’ve noticed that Latvian Orthodox Church has become more active. The church develops activities with children and youngsters. They try to attract a younger generation and actively work with Latvians.

What do you mean when you say they work with youngsters and actively involve Latvians?

They increase the range of people who are loyal to ideals of Orthodox beliefs. Considering that the Russian Orthodox Church has close ties with the government, loyalty to Russia, the concept of a Russian world and belief in Russia’s unique geopolitical mission is formed automatically.


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