Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 46

Kremlin spokesman and foreign policy coordinator Sergei Yastrzhembsky warned in two statements over the weekend of possible Russian "economic steps" — implying sanctions — against Latvia over the March 3 incident in Riga. (See Monitor, March 5 and 6) Yastrzhembsky said that he and his team are recommending such "steps" to President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. According to Yastrzhembsky, Latvia ought to demonstrate "loyalty toward Russian interests" because its economy "largely depends" on Russian energy and the re-export of Russian goods. "Nothing else is necessary but to be loyal," he stressed. Chernomyrdin for his part claimed that "Russia is in shock, the Russian people [are] in shock" over Latvia’s "apartheid." Attacking Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts for having conjectured that the March 3 incident may have been deliberately provoked, Chernomyrdin stated it was "a shame that Latvia has such a Prime Minister" and, more broadly, that Moscow had "shown so much patience, hoping that something would change in those leaders’ brains. The prime minister’s spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov followed with a statement that Chernomyrdin’s remarks were "not an official outburst, but the official position."

The Duma fell in step with the government by voting to cancel a planned visit by the chamber’s chairman, Gennady Seleznev, and a group of deputies to Latvia. The Communist Seleznev had last week attempted to rescue the visit by pointing to the need for dialogue. The Duma also voted a resolution that, besides denouncing Latvia’s internal policies, also warned against the accession of the Baltic states to NATO. The pro-government Russia is Our Home also canceled a planned visit of its deputies to Riga. The Moscow daily Russky telegraf commented that the Russian political elite was being seized by "clinical hysteria" in this case, and that Chernomyrdin’s statements "went beyond diplomatic etiquette and elementary decency." (Russian agencies, Ekho Moskvy, Russky telegraf, March 6-7)

In Riga, Krasts and Internal Affairs Minister Ziedonis Cevers again tried to point out at a news conference that no one had been beaten up or arrested when the police dispersed the riot in downtown Riga, and that the police had acted within its rights, though belatedly. President Guntis Ulmanis and Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs issued conciliatory statements calling for Russian-Latvian dialogue. (BNS, March 6-7)

Albright Visit to Kyiv Marked by Concern Over Ukraine’s Reforms.