Riga mayor sparks pro-Putin controversy

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Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs is courting controversy with what appear to be comments supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the LETA newswire reported Friday.

Ušakovs, currently in Moscow on a mission to promote Latvian products in the Russian capital despite the prospect of further EU-Russia trade sanctions, was shown on an edited clip of a Russian-language TV interview describing Putin as the best of the current potential candidates for the Russian presidency.

"For us at the moment, President Vladimir Putin is the best one we could have because, if he wasn't there, then power would not go to [opposition leader Aleksej] Navalny," Ušakovs said.

"The presidents that could be in his place would not bring stability to the neighborhood," he added.

The comments are likely to mean Ušakovs will face more questions about his stance regarding Putin, particularly as the Harmony party which Ušakovs heads has repeatedly defended the existence of its cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party.

Via Twitter, the mayor thanked people for their great interest in his interview and urged them to view the full version to see his comments in context.

In August Ušakovs sparked a similar controversy ahead of his Moscow visit by saying he would "beg" Russian shops to stock Latvian products if it would help reduce the impact on local producers, though his tendency to reply to some questions in an ironic manner was largely responsible for the furor the comments caused. 


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