Latvia’s Economics Minister Atis Sausnits disclosed yesterday that Russia has recently introduced "informal economic sanctions" by detaining Latvian exports at the border for week-long periods. The resulting cost increases render Latvian goods uncompetitive on the Russian market. Moreover, perishable agricultural goods — which form a large part of Latvia’s exports to Russia — are being lost altogether. A study prepared by the Economics Ministry projects substantial revenues losses for Latvia and a "crisis of the farming sector" if this Russian practice continues.
Also yesterday, President Guntis Ulmanis and Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs cited complaints by Latvian entrepreneurs about emerging "impediments" to their business activities in Russia, short of "official" economic sanctions. Ulmanis told the press that while "state to state" sanctions remain unlikely, Russian authorities are creating other types of obstacles inflicting losses on Latvian producers and exporters. (BNS, Russian agencies, April 1)
Since the March 3 incident in Riga (see Monitor, March 5 and subsequent issues), the threat of economic sanctions against Latvia has been publicly brandished by the Kremlin’s foreign policy coordinator Sergei Yastrzhembsky, other government officials and politicians, and — less aggressively — by the Duma. (See Monitor, April 1) Yesterday, Russia’s Federation Council — which includes many appointees of President Boris Yeltsin — also called for "measures including sanctions," claiming that Latvian police had beaten up Russians on March 3, and that Latvian authorities "condone Nazism" in the form of a March 16 procession of veteran Latvian legionnaires in Riga. "The Latvian leadership takes Russian goodwill for weakness," the Federation Council’s statement warned, without citing instances of goodwill. (Russian agencies, April 1)
The OSCE and other authorities have established and announced that no force was used against the March 3 Russian demonstration in Riga. Nonetheless, the Russian government continues pillorying Latvia on that count. Indiscriminately describing as "Nazis" the Balts who resisted the Soviet occupation during and after the war is a familiar Soviet propaganda theme.
Only One Tatar Elected to Crimean Parliament.