Russia warns Latvia over “unfriendly step”

Take note – story published 9 years ago

Russia reacted sharply Monday to entry bans imposed on three of its pop stars which will prevent them attending planned concerts in Latvia.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry described the restrictions announced by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics as “an unfriendly step” and reserved the right to respond – likely meaning tit-for-tat bans on Latvian performers with dates booked in Russia.

“Latvia's step can have a negative impact on relations between the two countries. Latvia should take full responsibility,” the statement said, adding that Latvia's ambassador in Moscow Astra Kurma had been summoned to provide an explanation.

The names of the three individuals on Latvia's blacklist are Oleg Gazmanov, Iosif Kobzon and Alla Perfilova, better known as 'Valeriya'.

Kobzon – who was in fact born near Donetsk - has the dubious distinction of being declared persona non grata by Latvia for a second time after he was originally blacklisted for alleged links to organised crime in 2001. He is also a former Duma deputy.

He was removed from the blacklist in 2004.

The three were due to appear at New Wave, an extravagant televised event in Latvia's Jurmala resort that attracts participants and visitors from across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and beyond.

Popular among Russia's cadre of ultra-wealthy oligarchs, the arrival of their mega-yachts and private planes is a staple of the gossip columns in both Latvia and Russia.

Reaction was not limited to Russia - Jurmala town mayor Gatis Truksnis announced through municipal spokeswoman Ieva Aile Monday that he would not now make his customary address to the Russian-speaking audience at the launch of this year's event.

As tensions between the two neighbors rose, later on Monday the State Secretary of the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Andrejs Pildegovičs, summoned the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Latvia, Alexander Veshnyakov to a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in relation to the downing of Malaysian Airlines plane MH17 in Ukraine on 17 July.

A statement from the Latvian Foreign Ministry said Pildegovičs "strongly condemned the act of violence and called upon Russia to support an independent investigation on an international scale into the circumstances of the incident."

Supplies of armaments and combatants across the Ukrainian-Russian border - which Russia denies are happening - must stop, Pildegovičs said, and called upon Russia to take "practical steps in that direction".  

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