Latvia prepares to close two crossing points on Russian border

In response to Russia's decision to significantly restrict the possibilities of entry of Ukrainian citizens, the Latvian Ministry of the Interior (IeM) has prepared a draft government decision October 12 on the suspension of the operation of Pededze and Vientuļi border crossing points.

Russia has decided that as of October 16, 2023, all holders of Ukrainian passports will have the right to enter Russia from third countries at only two border crossing points, one of which is the border crossing point on the Latvian-Russian border – the Vientuļi border crossing point.

“Such a decision shows that conditions are being created at the Latvian-Russian border that can have a significant impact on public order and pose a threat to national security.

“It is reasonable to believe that such a decision of Russia is a response to the relevant decision of the European Union, including the decision of Latvia to prohibit the entry into the territory of the country of vehicles with Russian registration plates,” said Interior Ministry.

Taking into account the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the need to prevent threats to Latvia's internal security related to the targeting of Latvia's national independence, sovereignty, territorial unity, state power, or democratic state, it is planned to suspend the operation of the Pededze and Vientuļi border crossing points as of October 16.

Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told Latvian Radio later on Thursday that Russia's decision inevitably poses risks to Latvia's national security and public order.

“At the moment, we were inevitably forced to make such a decision because it was an obvious deliberate decision by Russia to pose not only a risk in general but also a humanitarian, possibly, crisis,” Kozlovskis said.

Knowing the statistics of crossing the external land border with Finland, Norway, Estonia, and Latvia, these could potentially be up to 600 people a day, while Vientuļi border checkpoint permeability is about 65 people a day, the minister said.

“By projecting that up to 500 people could accumulate at the border in Latvia every day, we realize that this is a deliberate act to create problems for the Latvian state,” said Kozlovskis.

There are two more border crossing points on the Latvian-Russian border: Grebņeva and Terehova. However, if both the Russian and Latvian measures are introduced, it will mean that the only legal way Ukrainian citizens could enter Russia from the EU in future would be via a flight to Moscow Sheremetyevo airport.

Russia's intention appears to have been to create a concentration of a potentially large number of Ukrainians at a small border crossing point in an out-of the-way part of Latvia with limited infrastructure – which would clearly have serious security and safety implications.

As previously reported by LSM, in view of the pressure exerted by the Lukashenko regime in Belarus on Latvia's border via its state-sponsored people smuggling operation, the Latvian government decided in mid-September to suspend the operation of the Silene border crossing point.

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