LTV's De Facto: Fourteen accused of working with sanctioned Russian media

Starting in April, several courts in Rīga will view cases against fourteen Latvian residents for breaching European Union (EU) sanctions by producing content for Russian state propaganda channels, Latvian Television's broadcast "De Facto" reported on April 2.

Several proceedings have emerged from one initial case but 14 persons have been accused altogether, including former chief editor of 'Baltnews' and MEP Tatjana Ždanoka's assistant Andrejs Jakovļevs, pro-Kremlin activist Vladimirs Lindermans, several political party Latvian Russian Union (LKS) activists, and others.

At the beginning of February in Moscow, at the Rossiya Segodnya press center, a press conference was held for Andrejs Jakovļevs' documentary "To Forget a Latvian Sniper". The film was initially a tribute to the Soviet hero Jānis Vilhelms, a WWII sniper, and was produced in cooperation with the Russian "Support and rights protection fund for compatriots living abroad". The film contains complaints about the "Ukrainization" of Latvia and the removal of Soviet monuments.

The film was intended to be shown on Rossiya 24, a TV channel banned in Latvia. The "compatriots support fund's" federal agency "Rossotrudnichestvo" is also on the sanctions list as of last summer. Jakovļevs denied concerns that he would be faced with another criminal case in relation to the film.

Jakovļevs already has criminal proceedings against him since the fall of 2021, related to the portal Baltnews (now titled Rakurs) of which Jakovļevs was the chief editor at the time. The criminal charges state that Jakovļevs provided content to the Russia Segodnya agency whose director Dmitry Kiselyov is on the sanctions list.

Another 13 persons have been accused of sanctions breaches related to Kiselyov, including several Baltnews and Sputnik authors: Vladimirs Lindermans, another of Ždanoka's assistants, Andrejs Solopenko, photographer Sergejs Melkonovs, journalists Alla Berezovska, Jeļena Kirillova, Vladimirs Dorofejevs, Aleksandrs Malnačs, Andrejs Tatarčuks, and Ludmila Pribiļska. Most of them deny their guilt.

Ludmila Pribiļska told De Facto in a phone call: "I never wrote anything for Baltnews. For Sputnik, maybe, yes. But It's not forbidden – it's my job as a journalist."

According to the prosecutor Madara Griķe, most of the accused maintain their position that they never had to do anything with Kiselyov in person. But the prosecutor is of the opinion that the accused have done everything to continue working in the interests of Rossiya Segodnya. "The remunerations vary from a few thousand to 60 thousand [for one person]. Some did it over several years. [..] In any case, the Russian Federation is not stingy with resources for this activity."

The case was initiated before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but according to De Facto's information, some of the authors continued the cooperation with Russia Segodnya holding after the war began. 

MEP Ždanoka, asked to comment on the actions of two of her assistants, told De Facto that she had mentioned in an EP debate a case where 14 journalists in Latvia are being prosecuted for their work. When pointed to the fact that the accusations are related to sanctions breaches, Ždanoka replied she had no more time for the interview.

The cases will start to be viewed in court in April and the coming months.

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