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Russian ambassador in Latvia: Putin’s visit is not to be expected

Alexander Veshnyakov.
Putin’s visit is not to be expected, Alexander Veshnyakov, the Russian ambassador in Latvia, said in an interview with freecity.lv.

It doesn’t take a psychic to perceive coolness between our countries. What is the reason behind it? 

During those more than four years I work in Latvia the authorities, secret services have never published any articles about the threat that Russia is allegedly posing to Latvia, about any hidden foreign policy plans Russia is seemingly devising. Moreover, that our work with expats also constitutes a menace to national security of Latvia. Of course, such publications, which have nothing to do with reality, stir up local nationalists. And urge on Anti-Russian sentiments. It seems to me that this Anti-Russian background that has emerged in Latvian mass media this year, especially this spring, has never been there over the last 4-5 years.

You said that Latvian secret services see the threats to national security even in assistance to Russian expats. Who are recipients of such support? 

Any democratic country tends to support its expatriates, and Russian is not an exception to the rule. Even more so, as our diaspora is very numerous all over the world and we get actively involved with it. By the way, as far as I know, Latvia currently works on a similar program. In Latvia we support various cultural programs, including the Days of Russian Culture, which were organized for the second year in a row. The tradition of such days goes back to 1930ies.
Another project relates to the 200th anniversary of the victory over Napoleon in 1812.
And, of course, we will always support our veterans of the Second World War. These are three actual projects funded also by the State of Russia. Everything is transparent and organized under the Laws of both the Russian Federation and the Republic of Latvia - it is a principal approach carried out by our commission of expat affairs to support them abroad.

Latvian Secret Services reckon that Russian intelligence in Latvia has become more active. What would you say on the matter?
It is an absolutely groundless allegation made up by Latvian secret services. It is up to them to comment on such allegations. I thing that they have no reasons for it, save for one: to show off their own importance.

Another sensitive matter in relations between Latvia and Russia is their differences in the perception of the results of the Second World War. The President Berzins appealed to reconciliation between soldiers who have been on opposite sides of the barricades, invited the veterans to visit. What you think about such initiative? 
You know, reconciliation as such is a positive thing. Yet the offered reasoning behind such reconciliation - that there were no victors in the Second World War - is wrong. I am aware that representatives of the veterans of Latvian corps have sent a letter to the President in this regard, being puzzled that such position might constitute a grounds for reconciliation. And they are absolutely right, as it is nothing else as misinterpretation of the historical truth. As to me, I do not believe that reconciliation between veterans in Latvia is possible on such grounds. As the matter is very serious and complicated, one has to be very cautious, correct and thoughtful about the actual history of the Second World War and those who really won that war. We need to support all veterans of the war living in Latvia, instead of making selection. The proposal to prepare and pass a special law on the status of the veterans of the Second World War also has its merits and should be supported. Anyway, if such law instead of reconciliation of veterans aggravated the differences between them, the results would be quite different.

Alas, the war goes on not only in memories of the soldiers. Recently young nationalists called upon taking down the monument to the liberators...

Oh, I think that those who bring up the question about the monument represent very small portion of Latvian society.

Yes, first the representatives of the radicals only, yet now the Minister of Defense from the in party Artis Pabriks promulgates similar utterances...

I think that involvement of Mr. Pabriks in the matter does no credit to him. Like his insinuations that Russia has initiated and financed the referendum on Russian language. By the way, as I pointed out back then, he has no evidence on the matter. No evidence had also Latvian secret services, which publicized their reports. Yet the reproach has been uttered, very dangerous, biased, also by the Latvian officials. Decent people apologize for things like that, yet we have seen no apologies. All this sows discord in certain part of community; instigate those Anti-Russian sentiments we already mentioned. And it is a way of sad.
It can be probably explained by the approaching elections. There is less than a year left to the municipal elections, and the parliament elections also are not too far away. And some politicians are tempted to pull out that old and well-tried card of ethnical confrontation that has produced certain results at several elections. It is a pity that the government representatives also rely on this card.

What if the issue ended in taking down the monument? What steps might Russia take?

I do not believe that it might happen in the Latvia I know. It will be another Latvia. And, of course, it would produce an adequate reaction from Russia. It is not allowed to mock at the memory of people who rescued the Europe, Latvia from the fascism!

Does it mean that the return visit of the Russian President to Latvia now will be postponed for some longer time?

You know, I remember that the President Berzins told that there are no hindrances to the President Putin’s visit to Latvia. Yet for the time being I assume that the conditions for his visit are not yet in place.

What should be the conditions?

First of all, the political background right now is obviously unfavorable for such visit. And everybody should be aware of it. Secondly, a visit of any state dignitary implies certain contents, signing of the agreements, treaties, and statements of intent. In this regard I currently do not see any serious work to promote the agenda for such meeting between the state leaders. Taking into account these two considerations, any realistic talks about soon enough visit of the Russian President to Latvia are, unfortunately, closed.

Tatiana Fast, Vladimir Vigman 

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