Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 55

Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans and officials in his party, Latvia’s Way, should find it no longer possible to support the country’s top internal security official, Lainis Kamaldins, after the latest flap. Kamaldins, Director of Latvia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), hypothesized in a March 17 media interview that members of the Jewish community in Riga may have firebombed their own synagogue, with the assent of Jewish leaders, solely to create an international scandal. Kamaldins would not reveal the evidence, but said there was enough of it to substantiate this particular version.

Chief Rabbi Natans Barkans indignantly rejected such an insinuation, which might “sow enmity between Latvian and Jewish citizens.” President Guntis Ulmanis went on radio to describe Kamaldins’ conjecture as lacking credibility. A statement from Kristopans’ office said that he is puzzled and will seek explanations (BNS, Radio Riga, March 18).

The April 1998 firebombing caused damage but did not result in any deaths. Perpetrated during Moscow’s anti-Latvian campaign, the attack on the synagogue was generally seen as intended to destabilize the internal situation and damage Latvia’s international reputation. It produced the opposite effect: Jewish community leaders rallied to the moral defense of Latvia, while the country’s political leadership and parties demonstrated solidarity with the Jewish community (see the Monitor, April 3, 7, 1998).

The OPC never managed to identify the perpetrators. Kamaldins’ version may be seen as a rationalization of that failure. Kamaldins’ term of office expires next month. Ulmanis recently criticized his performance as unsatisfactory and a reflection of the director’s inadequate professional skills. The next OPC director will have to begin the work from scratch, Ulmanis commented in an interview. The following day, Kamaldins and his first deputy Uldis Dzenitis publicly contradicted the President. Regardless, Latvia’s Way leaders were reported in the press earlier this month to be sticking to Kamaldins for another term as OPC director (BNS, March 9-10).