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Latvian police chief: We will be strict during Russia's 'elections'

State Police (VP) is preparing for intense work this weekend when Russia's presidential “election” takes place. Police anticipate various provocations and promise to take harsh action against them, said police chief Armands Ruks on Latvian Television on March 14.

VP boss Armands Ruks said riots would not be tolerated over the weekend. He vowed to take tough action against anyone who would praise and justify Russia's war in Ukraine. It also includes the use of forbidden symbolism.

“These Russian citizens who are going to vote -- we assume that a lot of them are Putin supporters,” Ruks assessed. “We don't believe in democratic presidential elections of the Russian Federation, so we also see risks in that way in the context of the actions of those who are going to vote for the existing regime.”

The Police Chief emphasized that it is justified to check these people in order to ascertain whether their stay in Latvia is lawful:

“We plan to test anyone who goes before they get into the embassy grounds. Accordingly, “corridors” will be created, so the State Border Guard is attached with relevant specialists, systems, databases, and everything else so we can check. If irregularities are found, expulsion procedures will start immediately.”

Such a procedure is provided for in all three so-called “election” stations located in Riga.

Responding to news that Russia could deploy “election buses” near the borders of the Baltic States, people crossing the border with Russia will also be under increased scrutiny. The weekend will also be challenging because the dates of these “elections” coincide with the commemoration of other events important to Latvia's history.

The risks of provocations were also highlighted by the Chief of the Border Guard Guntis Pujāts: “There are risks because we know that the dates coincide, both Legionnaires' Memorial Day [March 16] and national resistance day - March 17. […] In Belarusian propaganda, this March 16th, Legionnaires' Day, is distorted, and we are associated with Nazi descendants.”

According to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, at the beginning of the year, approximately 42,000 voting Russian citizens were in Latvia.

At the same time as the “elections” on March 17, a protest event was announced and coordinated in Riga City Council opposite the Embassy of Russia building in Riga, in order to condemn the Russian President's so-called holding of elections in Latvia. The protest is scheduled to begin at 10:00.

Meanwhile, the Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee has adopted a statement in which it strongly condemns the organization of so-called elections in the occupied Ukrainian territories, as well as questions the democratic legitimacy of the elections in Russia itself.  The Saeima plenary session will decide on this statement on Thursday, March 14.

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