In an interview with Latvian Radio program Krustpunktā Wednesday Latvia’s chief diplomat stressed that the situation in Donbas is at a critical stage, and that third-phase sanctions against Russia will only reveal their impact after some time.
Rinkevics also addressed the question of whether there might be Latvians involved in supporting the pro-Moscow breakaway forces now fighting against the Ukrainian national army.
“We’ve got all sorts of news. We can’t rule out the possibility. I’m afraid there are plenty of people fooled by Russia’s propaganda that think they’re heading off to fight fascism and, let’s say, ‘defend’ the Russian world,” he said.
“I’m afraid this situation will not resolve itself like in the movies: in two or three hours’ or days’ time. We have to prepare to deal with a protracted crisis. Even if the current crisis dies down, the tense situation will remain for a long time to come,” Rinkevics said.
He added that the conflict will only escalate “for the worse” in the event Russia decides to send its so-called peacekeeping forces into Ukraine.
He pointed out that despite all manner of political dialogue and diplomatic instruments put into efforts since March, when Russia’s army unofficially entered Crimea and facilitated its annexation, the situation in Ukraine has not calmed.
Moreover, Russia’s aggression has cast doubt upon the geopolitical situation in the entire region.
“Sanctions weren’t necessarily what we all wanted. Bet we feel now that if this conflict spreads wide, we’ll pay even more dearly. With all due sympathy for business people, one must understand the fire could jump over to our side. Better to keep the conflagrations far from home,” Rinkevics said.
He also said he has no doubt in the efficacy of NATO’s Article 5, which obliges member-states to come to the common defense of any fellow member against a foreign aggressor.
He warned again that Latvia is close to labeling the self-declared people’s republics of Lugansk and Donetsk as terrorist organizations, meaning that national laws would come down harshly against any residents getting involved in their ranks.
As for the demonstration held Tuesday at the Laima clocktower, Rinkevics called the pro-Russian groups “very, very marginal” and expressed hope that any humanitarian aid or money collected for the suffering refugees of the humanitarian crisis in Donbas doesn’t come into the hands of the pro-Russian mercenaries.