Former Riga Mayor Points To Importance Of Relations With Russia, Belarus For Latvia

RIGA (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 23rd July, 2021) Relations with Russia and Belarus will always be important to Latvia as the countries share borders and there are close ties between their peoples, Nils Ušakovs, a member of European Parliament and former mayor of the Latvian capital, told Sputnik on Friday.

"We need to look at the map here is Latvia and here is our common border with Russia, our big neighbor. We can see how economic relations form. This cooperation will always be important. History shows that the governing forces in different countries change, but the nations remain. We have relations with the Russian people. So relations with Moscow and Minsk will always be important for us," Ušakovs said.

The politician acknowledged the tension in the European Union's relations with Russia and Belarus, saying that its repercussions are felt in Latvia. He believes that all parties involved are responsible for the decline.

"Yes, the crisis is serious, and it is especially hard for us in Latvia from an economic point of view, and for many residents also from a psychological and even personal point of view," Ušakovs added.

Moscow-Brussels relations have taken a hit in 2014 over Crimea's reunification with Russia and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, the Latvian leadership has consistently demanded Moscow be held "accountable" for Russia's alleged occupation of Crimea and involvement in the Donbas region.

Recently, the EU has also been putting increased pressure on Minsk following the presidential election in Belarus in August 2020, which saw President Alexander Lukashenko secure his sixth time in office. Brussels has put several rounds of sanctions on certain Belarusian officials and entities deemed responsible for electoral fraud and violence in suppressing massive post-election rallies.

The feud spiraled further in May when a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk over a bomb threat hoax, and a Belarusian pro-opposition journalist was arrested as passengers disembarked.

Latvia protested the crackdown on the Belarusian opposition by replacing the state flag with that of the opposition during the Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga. The tensions resulted in the expulsion of Latvian and Belarusian diplomats from their respective embassies.