An explosive charge detonated yesterday some forty meters outside the Russian embassy in Riga, breaking windows of some of the embassy’s cars, but not touching the building or injuring anyone. President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Guntars Krasts, and Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs in separate statements condemned the act as aimed to "destabilize the internal situation" and "discredit Latvia internationally."
A senior law-enforcement staff conference yesterday at Latvia’s Internal Affairs Ministry, chaired by Ulmanis, resolved to launch an all-out interagency effort to stop such acts and find the perpetrators. The meeting also decided to institute full-time protection of Jewish community centers, synagogues, and cemeteries. The measure follows the April 2 bomb explosion at the Riga synagogue (see Monitor, April 3) and the April 4 desecration of a tomb in a Jewish cemetery in Liepaja. In that town, a Latvian patriotic monument and Soviet military memorial were also desecrated recently. The second case drew an irate Russian protest note. (BNS, Radio Latvia, April 6)
Latvian government and law-enforcement officials again theorized yesterday that the bomb explosions and vandalism were orchestrated by circles interested in harming the country’s internal and external security and (as Krasts put it) "jeopardize its foreign policy goals–accession to the European Union and NATO." Latvian officials recalled yesterday the Russian embassy’s March 13 communique, which had warned that the embassy possessed intelligence information about impending acts of anti-Russian "terrorism" by Latvian "extremists." The embassy failed after March 13 to answer the Latvian Foreign Ministry’s public queries about the information available or how the embassy had obtained it on Latvian territory. That statement appeared designed to set the stage for recriminations to follow.
In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry yesterday issued a statement describing yesterday’s bomb explosion in Riga as a "terrorist act which stems from the deliberate stirring up of anti-Russian hysteria, nationalism and extremism in Latvia. Bombs are exploding, monuments are desecrated, the Fascists are raising their heads in Latvia. An end must be put to this. We demand that the Latvian authorities take decisive measures and punish the guilty." (Itar-Tass, April 6)
The Moscow statement’s tenor is that of Soviet pre-invasion warnings. Today’s Russia is unable to take military action, but is in a position to threaten with economic sanctions. In the last few days, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Yaroslav region Governor Anatoly Lisitsyn (a friend of Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka) have spoken about such sanctions against Latvia, after the Kremlin’s foreign policy coordinator Sergei Yastrzhembsky had done so first. Avdeev additionally remarked that Moscow "works in parallel to exert pressure on Latvia through international organizations — the UN, Council of Europe, and OSCE." (Russian agencies, April 3 and 4)
Minsk Courts Sentence Pro-Independence Demonstrators.