Latviski English По-русски
Saturday 22.09.2018 | Name days: Maigurs, Mārica, Māris

Foreign media: Russia's influence in Latvia is growing again

(No Ratings Yet)

The Russian tycoon Leonid Rozhetskin was last seen alive in the pretty seaside town of Jurmala, on the Baltic coast of Latvia. That was five years ago. Detectives found ominous clues inside his villa, including blood on the floor, but no body.

Then last summer police discovered human remains 25 miles away in a forest. Inside a pocket was Rozhetskin’s credit card. So far officials have been unable to say for sure that the corpse is that of the missing multi-millionaire.

The Guradian writes that the presumed murder is a vivid example of how Latvia – a small Baltic nation of 2 million people on the doorstep of Russia – has become a playground for Russian interests: business, political and, above all, criminal. Or often, as in the Rozhetskin case, all three. Like many rich Russians he had numerous enemies. The Guardian has even been told the name of the hitman who allegedly killed him.

Another version suggests Rozhetskin faked his own death, and is alive and well in the US living under a false name. Either way his house, next to Jurmala’s cemetery, was eerily empty last week. There was no sign its owner will return any time soon.

The Guardian reminds that two decades after Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union, joining the EU and Nato in 2004, Russian influence is growing again.

It is most visible in Jurmala, the picturesque resort of pine forests and wooden dachas from where Rozhetskin is thought to have disappeared. Every summer Russia’s fashionable super-rich gather here for the New Wave pop festival. They meet, socialise and party. A table in the VIP lounge of the town’s concert hall costs £25,000. It is joked that their combined wealth exceeds Latvia’s budget.

The guests are a who’s who of Vladimir Putin’s Russia – oligarchs, Duma MPs, crooners and spies. According to Leonid Jakobson, an investigative journalist based in the capital, Riga, Jurmala also attracts another clientele: the Russian mafia.

“Jurmala isn’t really a music festival. You don’t need to go to Latvia to listen to Russian pop stars. You can do that in Russia,” Jakobson said. “In reality Jurmala is an important moment. The Russian mafia and Russian government are together in one place. They discuss common problems, global problems and how to move money through the Baltics.”

Some including Jakobson believe the Kremlin’s agenda in Latvia is to slowly reverse the country’s strategic direction from pro-west to pro-Moscow. This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and, arguably, Georgia have all recently returned to Russia’s geo-political fold following unsuccessful revolutions, The Guardian says.

Latvia has the biggest proportion of ethnic Russians of the three post-Soviet Baltic states, accounting for about 25% of Latvia’s population. Some 37% speak Russian as a first language, the highest figure for any EU country. The charming capital Riga is effectively bilingual, with Russian and Latvian spoken on its art nouveau streets.

There is also growing evidence the country has become a haven for dubious Russian money.

In a report last week the European commission praised Latvia’s post-2008 economic recovery. But it said the authorities had not done enough to stop Latvia’s banking system being used for “complex economic, financial, money laundering, and tax evasion crimes”.

In recent months wealthy Russians have abandoned Cyprus, which is seeking an EU bailout, and moved their company registrations to Latvia.

Half of all money now invested in Latvia – $10bn – comes from non-resident depositors. Most live in Russia and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The US state department has expressed concern that this reliance on outside money creates a “systemic money-laundering risk”.

“Latvia seems to be the first point of call for money launderers to get their cash into the EU,” said Tom Mayne, of the campaign group Global Witness. “Once you get money into the EU there are close relations between EU banks, and you can move it around easily. Latvia is one of the main hubs. It’s a point of weakness.”

Latvian financial regulators say they have introduced tough measures to clamp down on money-laundering and suspicious transactions. They say Latvia, with its large financial services industry, is not the only European country that does business with Russia. “The EU is still buying gas from Russia. We are part of the west,” said Kristaps Zakulis, the head of Latvia’s bank regulator, FKTK.

Moscow, meanwhile, has staged military exercises on Latvia’s border, while the ultra-nationalist Duma MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky has called on Russia to annex the parts of eastern Latvia dominated by ethnic Russians.

The Kremlin has also sought to bolster its influence via Latvia’s Russian language press. An anonymous offshore company owns many newspaper titles; their real owner is suspected to be a pro-Kremlin businessman. All portray Putin favourably. Pro-Putin Russian state television is widely viewed; Russia has also distributed history textbooks to schools that portray Latvia’s post-1944 Soviet occupation as “liberation”.


Leave a reply

  1. Vitalys says:

    Latvian and Russian it makes no difference in Latvia.

  2. JPR says:

    Russia = mafia

  3. Vitalys says:

    I mean a mafioso is a mafioso whatever he comes from .Most of politicians in office are Latvians and corrupt.

Court reschedules viewing of criminal case due to Non-citizens Congress leader’s poor health

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court announced today that the viewing of the criminal case in which leader of Non-citizens Congress Aleksandrs Gapoņenko is accused of inciting national hate will be postponed to a later date.

Producer prices in industry up 1.0% in Latvia in August

Compared to July, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 1.0 % in August 2018. Level of prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.9 %, but of exported products – went up by 0.1 %.

Bishop: priest suspected of sexual abuse to be operated on in hospital

Pāvels Zeiļa, who is a priest of Rezekne Aglona diocese and the suspect in the criminal case regarding sexual violence and human trafficking, will undergo a complicated surgery on Friday, 21 September, as reported by Bishop Jānis Bulis.

Study: residents withdraw money from ATMs less often but in larger amounts

Every now and then discussions about dropping cash money altogether become active in society, AS PrivatBank representatives say.

HND Grupa design company, involved in Zolitude tragery, declared insolvent

Building engineer Ivars Sergets company HND Grupa, which was involved in the case revolving around the Maxima supermarket that collapsed in Zolitude, killing 54, not five years ago, has been declared insolvent, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Deputy Chief of State Fire and Rescue Service suspected of misappropriation

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry’s Internal Security Bureau has detained deputy chief of State Fire and Rescue Service Ints Sēlis and one other official – a senior inspector, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

Washington sanctions China for buying Russian military equipment

U.S. government has introduces sanctions against the Chinese army over a purchase of fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, despite a U.S. sanctions law targeting Moscow for attempts to sway in the 2016 U.S. election.

Autumn expected to begin soon in Latvia

Friday, 21 September, is expected to be warm in Latvia. Sun and considerable amount of clouds are expected, but not precipitation. Wind will draw in from the south, reaching a speed of 15-17 m/sec in western and central regions, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Brexit: a finish line with no end in sight

Less than 200 days are left before Britain officially leaves the European Union. The state of the agreement between Britain and EU only serves to create more chaos, from which neither Britain nor EU, or even Latvia will benefit.

EU underlines to London: No-deal Brexit also option

European Union's top officials and member state leaders planned to push for a Brexit deal in October, while urging London to give ground on the issues trade and the Irish border by November, to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Lithuanian PM, a presumable presidential hopeful, set to curb grocery price growth

Having chastised food retailers on many occasions for high grocery prices, Saulius Skvernelis, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, stepped forward in the bid to harness local supermarkets. The presumed presidential candidate of the ruling Farmers and Greens (LVŽS) has summoned this week executives of major retail food chains, scolded them and reaffirmed his pledge to rein in the edging up prices.

Industrial prices in Estonia – up by 3.4% on year

The industrial price index in Estonia has risen from August 2017 to August this year by 3.4%, official statistics show.

Latvian parliament approves transition to competence-based approach in education content

On Thursday, 20 September, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the Education Law, necessary for the gradual introduction of competence-based approach in education materials.

Latvian Saeima wants to disallow shareholders to work in company management board

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Credit Institutions Law that provide for multiple measures to enhance Latvia’s finance system and its long-term stability, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Aglone Council prohibits residents from organizing protests during Pope Francis’ visit

A protest against the Catholic Church’s ban on abortions and expression of shock in relation to the recent sex scandals involving Catholic priests was planned to take place in Aglone during Pope Francis’ visit, but the city council decided to disallow them.

Latvian parliament conceptual supports pension bonus indexation

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima supported in the first reading several initiatives for a more rapid pension climb for several groups of pensioners, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Majority Saeima deputies support open president vote; UGF members fail to decide unanimously

On Thursday, 20 September, amendments to the Constitution regarding open election of the state president were approved in the second reading.

Four Estonian parties have strong support, enough to enter Riigikogu

Four Estonian parties are believed to currently have enough support to enter the Estonian parliament, a broad opinion poll showed, as leading parties compete for voter backing.

Vitol Group concerned over state of rule of law in Latvia; turns to state officials

One of the largest energy resource traders in the world – Vitol Group – has sent a letter to Latvia’s highest ranking officials, expressing deep concern over the rule of law and application of legislative acts in the litigation between LatRosTrans and Polocktransneft Druzba over the EUR 66 million worth technological oil.

As Pope heads to Baltics, more attention to Catholic sex abuse

The time, when Roman Catholic Pope Francis is set to visit the Baltics, greatly differs from the visit by Saint John Paul II in 1993. There is public resentment over the countries spending several million euros to host the trip of the pontiff and the Catholic sex abuse scandals are topic of discussion.

Officials asked to take responsibility for misuse of state resources

If misuse of state resources takes place, officials have to take responsibility and pay for the damages caused to the state, says Public Expenditure and Audit Committee chairman Andris Bērziņš.

May asks EU not to divide Britain, while Brussels waits for UK change of position

At a European Union summit in Austria, UK's Prime Minister Theresa May called on EU leaders leave behind "unacceptable" Brexit demands that according to her may rip Britain apart.

Saeima decides to divide EUR 8.3 million of healthcare budget funds to finance reforms

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has supported the initiative to divide EUR 8.277 million from the planned chronic patient care funding to further finance reforms in the country’s healthcare system.

20 complaints received in first 10 days of data protection regulation

In the first 100 days since adoption of European General Data Protection Regulation, Latvia’s Data State Inspectorate has received 20 data protection violation reports, said the centre’s director Daiga Avdejanova during a meeting of Saeima’s European Affairs Committee.

Ministry: non-banking lenders should assess clients’ solvency more carefully

Although certain improvements have been noticed in the industry, Latvia’s Economy Ministry invites amendments to make non-banking lenders perform more careful evaluation of clients’ solvency and allow creditors exchange information with one another.

Newest comments