30 Jul 2014

The Baltics amid Crisis in Ukraine

Briefing of recent events

In the face of Russian actions in the east of Ukraine, EU and NATO countries situated next to Russia are concerned about their safety. When Szczecin (western Poland) was proposed as a possible location for the deployment of NATO troops to respond to threats by Russia, Latvian defence minister Raimonds Vējonis said there are also plans about locating the planned large NATO base in Latvia. He added that the official decision on the location is to be decided on the upcomming NATO summit in Wales. While Russia says, with the deployment of US troops in the Baltics, NATO violated the agreement about the prohibition of permanently locating allied troops close to the Russian border, Russia also moves closer to the Baltic states.

According to Estonian newspaper Postimees, Russia has located at least one 24-strong regiment of aircrafts 35 kilometres away from the Lithuanian border, on Baranovichi and Lida airfields. Estonian defence minister Sven Mikser commented that it is "not a surprise" for NATO. He also criticized the French Mistral deals with Russia, but declined the idea of recalling their troops from the France-led mission in the Central African Republic. 

Last week a Russian warship was observed next the city of Liepāja, close to Latvian waters.  According to the information of the Latvian Armed Forces, the ship Syzran was identified 6.5 nautical miles from Latvian territorial waters. A month ago, Latvian Navy Fleet also located  Russian warship Soobrazitelny 3 nautical miles from neutral waters and corvette Boykiy in the exclusive economic zone of Latvia. From the latter, a fight helicopter Ka-27 took off. Russian military airplanes were also frequently observed over the territorial waters of Latvia, including a military jet fighter two weeks ago.

corvette Soobrazitelny (wikipedia.ru)

Meanwhile, the construction of a new factory of the biggest tank manufacturer in the world, the Russian Uralvangonzavod in Jelgava, Latvia, has raised some controversy. US and EU sanctions imposed on Russian military industry companies also affect UVZ. Although it should manufacture only civilian equipment - wagons, railway platforms and containers for transport of liquified gas - the spokesperson of the Constitution Protection Bureau evaluated it as "a risk, but not threat". The construction of the most modern wagon manufacturing plant in Europe was started more than a year ago. With projected production capacity of about 2000 wagons a year, this more than 75 million euro project is expected to create 300 jobs. The factory should start to operate on full capacity in March 2015. UVZ Baltija is planned to supply Baltic and CIS countries in the beginnig, but to appear later also on Western markets. 100% of UVZ shares belongs to Russian Federal Property Agency Rossimushchestvo.

photo by The Baltic Course

As an answer to Russian propaganda, Lithuania and Latvia have banned certain Russian citizens to enter their countries: while the list of Lithuania has not been made public in accordance with the Lithuanian law, Latvia prohibited some famous Russian singers (Iosif Kobzon, Oleg Gazmanov, Valeriya) from participating in the Jūrmala international song contest Novaya Volna (New Wawe), organised by Latvia and Russia.

photo by ria.ru

Yesterday the leader of the party For Native Language, non-citizen of Latvia Vladimir Linderman announced that a group of Russian volunteers from Latvia has set out for Donetsk to join the uprising. Regnum.ru reports that travelling to their destination, the volunteers made use of the old connections of Linderman. "They understand that if the republics in Donbass are defeated, a genocide against Russians will be conducted in Latvia in the coming years" - he commented. Minister of Interior Rihards Kozlovskis said those who take part in military actions in Ukraine on the side of the separatists are comparable to terrorists and proposed changes in national legislation so that law enforcement could take special measures against people involved in terrorist activity. He noted that the only some members of the Congress of Non-Citizens approve the creation of the People's Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk.