Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 56

Lainis Kamaldins, Director of Latvia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), met on March 19 with Chief Rabbi Natans Barkans and Jewish Community Chairman Grigory Krupnikov. Kamaldins, the country’s top internal security official, expressed “regret for the ill-considered remarks” he had just made by way of “explaining” the April 1998 firebombing of the Riga synagogue. He conceded that he had no evidence to back up such an allegation. The OPC director had suggested in a media interview last week that Jewish community members, with the assent of their leaders, may have staged the attack with hopes of sparking an international scandal; he claimed that he had some “evidence” to that effect (BNS, Lauku Avize, March 17-18; see the Monitor, March 19).

Latvian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Maris Riekstins called for clearing the air as soon as possible and expressed the hope that the incident would not damage Latvia’s international reputation. Kamaldins’ senior deputy, Uldis Dzenitis, publicly distanced himself from his chief, describing the accusations against the Jewish community as “incorrect and not corresponding to the truth.” The apparent rift between them is noteworthy because, barely two weeks ago, Kamaldins and Dzenitis had jointly and publicly contradicted President Guntis Ulmanis’ low rating of Kamaldins’ and the OPC’s performance.

Ulmanis (while on a visit abroad) and leaders of all but one parliamentary parties–namely, People’s Party leader Andris Skele, Fatherland and Freedom faction leader Juris Dobelis, New Party leader Raimonds Pauls, Social-Democrat parliamentary leader Janis Adamsons and the faction “For Human Rights in a United Latvia”–promptly condemned Kamaldins’ allegations (BNS, March 19). This group, which is dominated by pro-Russian leftists, exploited the gratuitous opportunity to pose as the defender of democracy and of ethnic minorities. Latvia’s Way (the party of Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans), however, seemed slow to make its stand. The party recently allowed a security lapse in hiring a spokesman who fabricated an interview with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana (see the Monitor, January 14, 19). Kamaldins’ term of office expires next month. Latvia’s Way has supported Kamaldins for another term as OPC Director, despite Ulmanis’ disparaging assessment of Kamaldins’ record in that post. Latvia’s Way leaders can now be expected to drop Kamaldins as nominee (BNS, March 9).