Latvia expels Russian energy expert

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Konstantin Simonov, a Russian political analyst and director general of the National Energy Security Fund, who was expelled from Latvia on Friday on the orders of Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis, said he planned to challenge in court Latvia’s decision to blacklist him after he had already entered the country, reported Russia’s news agency ITAR-TASS Friday.

Simonov, who arrived in Riga Friday to take part in a discussion themed “The Gas Wars”, organized by the international media club Formats A3, never made it to the event. He was detained while having lunch by two Border Guard officers, who informed him of Kozlovskis’ decision to put him on Latvia’s ‘unwanted persons’ blacklist based on a recommendation by security authorities.

He was held at the Border Guard offices until he could be placed on a suitable flight back to Moscow.

“I was told that I can challenge this writ within 30 days and I think I will use this opportunity. I just want to understand why they have blacklisted me as an unwanted person in Latvia,” Simonov said.

Simonov, quoted by ITAR-TASS, claimed no knowledge or understanding of the reasons for Latvia’s decision to expel him from the country.

“I am shocked at Latvia’s decision. First, I have always stood for the normalization of relations with Europe and I have never withheld it. The energy sector is just a part of this process for me,” he noted. “Second, I cannot understand how Europe ensures human rights for personal space and private life and how the authorities get to know where a person is at a given moment and why they refuse to say how they know this. And, finally, why a democratic country cannot say clearly what a man can do wrong over just half a day to become a persona non grata.”

He said that ahead of his trip to Riga, organizers had contacted Latvia’s foreign ministry to learn about potential problems that might face him. “The Latvian foreign ministry said there were no problems. I arrived in Riga by a morning flight and stated the purpose of my visit when I was going through border crossing procedures. There were no claims to me and I reached the centre of the city from the airport. When I was having lunch, two border officers came to me and told me a decision had been taken to immediately expel me from Latvia as a persona non grata,” Simonov recalled.

“They gave me no explanations,” he said.

“And what is most vexing is the fact that I am reputed in Russia as an advocate of normalizing relations with the European Union, especially in the energy sector. It seems to be an irritating factor in present-day Europe,” he noted.

For the past 15 years Simonov has specialized in political and economic analysis, researching and publishing books on the themes of political risk and the economic interests of political elites in the oil and gas extraction sector, according to the Formāts A3 website. 

The Riga branch of the Moscow-based international media club Formāts A3 has previously been noted by the Security Police as a target for possible investigations into activities that are a potential threat to Latvia's security, reported Latvijas avīze in May of 2013.

Russia on its part expelled former Saeima member Aleksejs Holostovs from Russia Sunday, accusing him of spying for Latvia and the US Central Intelligence Agency, having procured a videotaped statement from him to that effect.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Karlis Eihenbaums called Holostovs’ expulsion an “extremely regrettable” incident that is “unfortunately happening more and more often.”

On Monday the Interior Ministry declined to comment on Holostovs' case, saying only that the expulsion took place at least two weeks ago and that Russia's security authorities had prepared the news and televised footage of Holostovs' confession "well in advance as a part of their information war."

"According to information we have this cannot have direct relation to the citizen of the Russian Federation who was expelled from Latvia on Friday," ministry press secretary Daiga Holma told national information agency LETA.

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