Latvia is investigating whether its banks acted as conduits for Russian funds used to interfere in elections and politics elsewhere, after it received a warning from the United States, officials have told Reuters. The allegations, which highlight the country’s role as a stepping stone for Russian money on its way to the west, come after Latvia’s third largest bank was shut in February after being accused by the United States of money laundering. Foreign affairs minister Edgars Rinkevics told Reuters that citizens from Russia and former Soviet states, including people subject to U.S. sanctions, had put money in Latvian banks and some of it may have been used for political manipulation.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Latvia.
The tiny country of Latvia can teach the United States a few things about how to counter Russian meddling in politics. One important lesson from Russian efforts to exacerbate ethnic conflict, spread disinformation and possibly compromise Latvian officials is that Russian methods keep changing, according to advice from Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs. “When it comes to the use of information as a weapon or propaganda, Russia does not have an approach that one size fits all,” Rinkēvičs told USA TODAY on Wednesday. “There are different ways of conducting political meddling and also during political elections.” Rinkēvičs was in Washington for meetings to prepare for an April 3 summit with President Trump and the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Latvia: Constitution Protection Bureau: e-voting to create security risks in Latvia | The Baltic Course
Introducing an electronic voting system in Latvia would create security risks, Janis Maizitis, Chief of the Constitution Protection Bureau or the top national security agency in Latvia, said on the public Latvian Radio, cites LETA. He said he was not prone to phobias but, based on the information that he knew as the head of the national security agency, he believed that it would best if Latvia kept to the existing voting procedure, using paper ballots. “That way it would be safer, and we will avoid security risks,” Maizitis said.
Latvia: Estonian and Latvian non-citizen petition for voting rights sent to European Parliament | Baltic Times
Latvian leftist MEPs Andrejs Mamikins (Harmony) and Tatjana Zdanoka (Russian Union of Latvia) have submitted petitions in support of Latvian and Estonian non-citizens to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions. Mamikins told LETA that they had collected over 20,000 signatures under the petition, and there were residents of Belgium, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh among the signatories of the petition. The petition seeks the rights for Estonia’s non-citizens to become members of political parties and to vote in the European Parliament election and, in the case of Latvia’s non-citizens, the right to vote in the European Parliament election.
Latvia’s parliament on Wednesday elected Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis as the Baltic state’s new president, making him the 28-member European Union’s first Green Party head of state. His victory comes as the small NATO and eurozone member of two million people is grappling with security concerns amid heightened tensions with Russia, and Vejonis acknowledged the troubled ties with the former Soviet-era master in his first speech after being named to the post. “I would like to improve relations with Russia… but while Russian rockets and heavy weapons remain in Ukraine, that’s not really possible,” the 48-year-old Vejonis said after winning the secret ballot in which 55 out of 100 legislators backed him.
Latvia’s center-right coalition has formed a negotiation group to agree on the next government after securing a safe majority in parliament in last Saturday’s general election. The parliamentary election, however, was narrowly won by the opposition leftist pro-Russia Harmony party with 23.2 percent of the vote, but its chances of being taken into the new government appear to be slight, given that the three ruling parties have won 56 percent support between them. The Unity party emerged as the runner-up in the election, winning 21.6 percent of the vote, Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) came third with 19.7 percent and the National Alliance took fourth place winning 16.5 percent of the vote.
Latvia’s hawkish center ruling coalition has won a clear majority in a general election, results showed on Sunday, after taking a hard line over the actions of Russia, its neighbor and former ruler, in Ukraine. Victory for the center in the Baltic state, which takes over the presidency of the EU at the start of next year, will bring a sigh of relief from many worried that the pro-Russian Concord party might gain power and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a friendly voice in the European Union. “The pro-European, relatively predictable, economically liberal course will continue,” Ivars Ijabs, associate professor of political science from University of Latvia, said.
As Latvia goes to the polls to electsa new parliament Saturday (04.10.2014), Russia’s Ukraine policy will likely have a strong impact on the result. The government in Riga is no longer ruling out an act of aggression from the Kremlin, which has repeatedly declared its intent to protect Russians abroad. Their share of the total population of the Baltic state is 26 percent, significantly higher than that in Ukraine, where they make up 17 percent. Latvia has a difficult relationship with Russia. In 1940 it was annexed by the former USSR. “The experience of 60 years of Soviet occupation is rooted deeply in historical memory,” says Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes, who heads the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Riga. The 100 seats in Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, will be fought for by 13 parties. Some represent Latvians only, others the Russian-speaking population, many of whom are so-called “non-citizens.” These are mostly Russians who, after Latvia became independent in 1991, were not offered passports. Nearly one in eight residents in the country is a “non-citizen.”
Latvians look likely to back their hawkish centre-right ruling coalition in a parliamentary election on Saturday amid increased tensions with giant neighbor Russia, Riga’s communist-era ruler, over the Ukraine crisis. Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has taken a tough stance towards Moscow over its policies in Ukraine, boosting defense spending and joining Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania in pressing for a bigger NATO presence in their region. Among her main opponents in the election is the traditionally pro-Moscow Concord party, which draws support from the ethnic Russians who make up about a quarter of Latvia’s two million-strong population. “I think that most likely we will have the same centre-right coalition as we see now. And the main reason is Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” said Andis Kudors, executive director of the Center for East European Policy Studies. “Latvian parties will have a hard time convincing voters why they would go (into a coalition) with a Concord party which does not condemn Russia’s aggression enough.”
Arnis Cimdars, chairman of Latvia’s Central Electoral Commission (CVK) claimed Wednesday that electronic voting was not secure enough to allow it to be used in Latvian elections – despite the fact that neighboring Estonia has used e-voting successfully since 2005. “There it happens. They accept it,” Cimdars said, noting different mindsets in the two countries. Speaking on LTV’s Rita Panorama morning news show, Cimdars said he thought e-voting would happen “sooner or later” but that debates about its introduction would continue for the foreseeable future. “According to our experts, it is not possible for us with current technology. We have some mental reservations about this method of voting, too… at the moment it is not possible to ensure the anonymity and security of this method of voting, so I don’t think it will happen very soon,” he added.