Latvia says Russia trying to use ‘provocateurs’ in Baltic state

Latvia’s defense minister said on Friday Russia was trying to stir unrest in the Baltic state by using “specially-trained, professional provocateurs” in the wake of its intervention in Ukraine.

The Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, now NATO and EU member states, were once part of the Soviet Union and have substantial Russian-speaking minorities, like Ukraine.

“There are risks that Russia might try to destabilize the situation in the region,” Raimonds Vejonis, Latvia’s defense minister, told Reuters in an interview.

“We see it very clearly in Ukraine’s case, where they have acted and are still trying to escalate the situation in different ways,” the minister added.

“They are trying to increase negative sentiment in society through certain specially-trained, professional provocateurs.”

As an example, he mentioned comments by Aleksandr Gaponenko, an activist for non-citizens’ rights in Latvia, to Norwegian television that Latvia’s government intended “to suppress protests with the power of army”.

Around 26 percent of Latvia’s 2 million people are ethnic Russians. Many do not have Latvian citizenship and so cannot vote or apply for certain public-sector jobs. Moscow has long complained about the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltics.

“There are no direct military threats to Latvia and the Baltic region, but there is increased activity of Russia’s Armed Forces near the border,” Vejonis said.


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