On Tuesday Latvia's domain registrar, the Network Information Center, blocked Sputnik's domain after the Foreign Ministry notified the registrar that Sputnik could be violating EU sanctions law, citing the link between Sputnik and the Rossiya Segodnya information empire headed by notorious journalist Dmitry Kiselov, subject to EU sanctions.
However two and a half hours after it was blocked the website resumed operations under the sputniknewslv.com domain (registered advance, on February 18). Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on Wednesday admitted to LNT television that Latvia can only turn against domains that are registered here.
While the Foreign Minister's advisor Mārtiņš Drēģeris told Latvian Radio that the Foreign Ministry, the institution responsible for enforcing sanctions, will turn to the Security Police.
"Sputnik.lv is not considered to be media, so an information agency controlled by another country has no right to operate in Latvia. As the national institution coordinating the sanctions regime, the Foreign Ministry will possibly turn to the competent institutions, and then the competent institutions, like the Security Police, will give or proffer a model of action, of what to do next," said Drēģeris.
While Māris Cepurītis, a researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies, told that the quick domain name change and resistance to Latvian authorities shows that Russia puts great emphasis on propaganda.
"It shows that Russia has substantial resources at its disposal, and that if they cannot enter through the door they will try doing so through the window. If the window is shut, they will try the chimney," said Cepurītis.
He added that Sputnik's actions aren't characteristic of free media as they usually don't work by trying to directly bypass national law.
Sputnik set up a website in Latvia in mid-February, served in Latvian and Russian. It launched an Estonian-language website shortly afterwards.
It is part of the Russia Today news empire, headed by the notorious journalist Dmitry Kiselov, currently barred from entering the European Union because of his propagandist activities.