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Magnitsky list supported by Latvian top-rank officials, Harmony and Lembergs oppose it

Aivars Lembergs/aivarslembergs.lv.
Latvia’s top-rank officials told De Facto programme of LTV that they support the approval of Magnitsky list in the Saeima. However, there are plenty of critics in the parliament who want to see some numbers – how will Latvia benefit from this list.

The programme emphasizes that laws named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison more than eight years ago, have been approved in five countries so far. Latvia might join them in the next couple of weeks – Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee has already approved the draft with a request to impose sanctions against people involved in the Magnitsky case.

«We thereby demonstrate our condemnation of everything associated with Magnitsky act. It is a political decision. It is also intended to show other democratic countries that have already supported legislative drafts of this kind that Latvia stands with them,» says chairman of Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš.

Countries that have introduced legislative acts named after Sergei Magnitsky include USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Estonia and Lithuania.

De Facto reminds that Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was arrested in 2008 after accusing several Russian state officials of stealing money from the state budget. After spending there one year, Magnitsky died because he was not provided with appropriate medical assistance. «Human rights violations are registered in Russia frequently. Most likely there are many in prisons as well. So why is this one so unique? You see, until now, we have not seen an accurate compilation of human rights violations on such a level. Throughout the 358 days Magnitsky spent in prison, he had submitted 400 complaints,» deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Rihards Kols comments on the initiative create the list.

De Facto also reminds that there are already 49 people on the list of personae non gratae in Latvia. All of them are mentioned in the Magnitsky act in USA. A couple of weeks ago Lithuania’s Interior Affairs Minister denied those people entry to the country.

«This includes chairman of Russian Investigative Committee Aleksandr Bastrikin and President of Republic of Chechnya Ramzan Kadirov. The list also includes parliamentary speaker Magomed Daudov and Chief of Argun City Police Ajub Katayev, who were mentioned in a study performed by Novaya Gazeta in regards to persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya. There are also Andrey Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who are accused of assassinating former officer of Russian Federal Security Service Aleksandr Litvinenko,» the programme reports.

All three representatives of Harmony voted against Foreign Affairs Committee’s proposed Magnitsky list. Sergei Potapkin (Harmony) comments: «There is no clarity on the matter – the people mentioned on the list are criminals and should be under prosecuted. Latvia already has tools to add those people to existing blacklists.»

De Facto adds that Harmony leader Jāņis Urbanovičs’ arguments are less technical: «As a politician with support from many Russians living in Latvia, it is clear to me that any unmotivated and poorly justified attacks on Russians in Russia also affect the hearts and minds of Russians in Latvia. It is unacceptable to for me.»

The foreign affairs committee’s legislative act was supported with only one vote advantage. Valdis Kalnozols, a member of the Union of Greens and Farmers Union who abstained from the vote, had this to say: «We are a small country. Russia can occupy us in a couple of turns. And not even a couple of thousand troops and couple of hundreds military vehicles can help. Let’s not look for enemies!»

LTV also notes that similar comments were voiced by Aivars Lembergs one week ago. He called the authors of the Magnitsky list as ‘threats to the state’: «Alright, democracy in Russia. How to we benefit from it? How does it impact us negatively? We can be better off at Russia’s expense. But no, we say: no, we are not interested! We want to live poorly and smack one to Russians. Idiocy!»

Kalnozols also wanted to hear about the benefits from Magnitsky case: «Previously, when I was the head of multiple businesses, it used to be that a director performs a SWOT analysis before making decisions to see what there is to gain and what – to lose. No analysis was provided. Because of that, I cannot make a decision, only abstain.»

«This is a traditional matter regarding values and interests in politics,» Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs commented on the situation. «It is not advised to follow a single road that offers absolute interests: let’s negotiate and become at peace with what happens in the world. With such an approach to politics we can also say that Crimea is part of Russia, Georgia’s problems are for Georgia to tackle. But this can only continue until we end up with a situation when threats to our country are considered a problem for Latvia to resolve on its own.»

The minister also believes Latvia has picked the correct road to follow with Magnitsky’s list, because parliaments of other countries have also made similar political decisions. Saeima’s vote on this matter will take place in the next couple of weeks. The final decision about a full list of personae non gratae will be made by the government.

De Facto also asked all three of Latvia’s top-rank officials to give their personal opinion about Magnitsky list. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis said after the meeting of the coalition: «You see, without a personal view, the position of the coalition and government is important to me. This is why, even though no new law is written, it is basically adopted with this list. This means our stance is the same, and that we will approve the list. […] If I were a free-thinker, I could afford it. But no, I believe my views are united with others.»

«I cannot afford to divide views here. I am a representative of the National Alliance, a member of the Saeima and its speaker all in one. My opinion is that this step is correct and should be supported. I support it,» said Saeima speaker Ināra Mūrniece.

The programme notes that there is also support in favour of Magnitsky list in Riga Castle. «Latvia has always followed adoption of international rights, including standards for human rights in different countries. And, of course, many international organizations have registered violations of human rights in Russia. That said, I believe it is a logical enough step for Latvia to discuss and for the Saeima to make a political decision,» said Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis.

De Facto predicts: «It is likely the Saeima will approve Magnitsky list. Without this symbolic step, Latvian authorities will still have the tools to make life harder for people unmasked by the dead laywer. For example, State Police Economic Crimes Prevention Office has been investigating Latvian banks’ possible association with Magnitsky case for five years. There are no suspects in this criminal case and no assets have been arrested so far. Police claim they are working closely with their foreign colleagues and other institutions, such as Finance and Capital Market Commission.»


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