ROAR: Latvian minister scandal may delay president’s Russia visit

Moscow has joined critics of Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Kristovskis, condemning him for supporting nationalist views.

­The minister is under fire back in Latvia as some politicians accused him of backing “Russophobe” statements. Kristovskis insists he has been misunderstood.

On Tuesday, the minister survived a no-confidence vote after the deputies of the opposition Harmony Center and For Better Latvia Movement demanded his resignation. According to them, Kristovskis had supported anti-Russian statements of Latvian doctor, Aivar Slutsis, who is living in the US.

Slutsis reportedly said in a letter to the chief diplomat that he would not be able to treat Russians in the same way as Latvians, and Kristovskis allegedly agreed with him, reports say.

The emailed correspondence between them could have ruined the political career of the new Latvian foreign minister. But the deputies of the country’s newly elected parliament did not support the demand for his resignation.

The passages from this correspondence “have certainly caught our attention,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Andrey Nesterenko, said in a statement. “It is a story that goes beyond the limits of common sense and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste,” he added, according to Interfax news agency.

Moscow expects Kristovskis in his practical affairs “to follow not his prejudice but the line of building good-neighborly relations with Russia declared by the Latvian government,” the spokesman said.

The Latvian foreign minister insists that he had agreed with Slutsis only in part of the correspondence concerning the fight against corruption and the defense of state.

However, it has become known that the second email was even more radical as the doctor, in particular, suggested that many cases of granting Latvian citizenship should be annulled and supported repatriation of ethnic Russians from the country,” website said. “He also spoke in favor of returning former Latvian territory Abrene, now Pytalovsky District of Pskov Region in Russia.”

The border issue with Latvia is settled, and any speculation in this regard is “provocative,” Alexey Sazonov, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information and press department told journalists on Thursday.

The Russian-Latvian border treaty came into effect in 2007, and the border was clearly defined, he said, as reported by Interfax news agency. “The joint demarcation commission is preparing for onsite works,” he noted.

In 2007, Latvia abandoned claim to the Pytalovsky District after the treaty was signed. On Friday, a new checkpoint called Ludonka was opened in the district.

The media speculates that “the new foreign minister may have a negative effect on relations between Russia and Latvia,” said. The scandal may also delay the first visit of Latvian President Valdis Zatlers to Russia.

The president had earlier condemned Slutsis’ nationalist statements,” the website said. “Speaking about the preparation of the visit to Moscow, he said it should not be linked to the scandal around the minister.” The date of the visit, however, has not been set so far.  

Kristovskis himself said he “always takes into consideration European values,” Kommersant daily reported. He also supported the normalization of relations with Russia, adding that it is “a neighboring country,” the paper added.

Sergey Borisov, Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT