Official: Latvia should be ready to take in Ukraine refugees

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Latvia must be ready for the arrival of large numbers of refugees from Ukraine, Edmunds Akitis, a representative of the Latvian Center for Crisis Control, said on public radio Friday. 

He indicated that Latvia should be prepared for the situation where some 10,000 refugees might arrive. 

Only a year ago nobody could imagine that the crisis in Ukraine’s east would unfold so fast, Akitis said. 

The representative of the crisis center indicated that everything is being done on the EU-level now to avert a massive influx of Ukrainian refugees. The EU, for instance, has already sent 140 million euros worth of human relief to Ukraine.

It remains to be seen what reaction Akitis' prediction will provoke among politicians. European Union proposals that Latvia should take in around 220 refugees from North Africa next year are meeting stiff resistance from government parties and it will be illuminating to see how they react to the prospect of a far greater number of refugees from Ukraine.

Meanwhile, heading in the opposite direction will be deliveries of canned Latvian fish with entrepreneurs from the Baltic states planning to conclude contracts on fish product deliveries to Ukraine's self-proclaimed Luhansk republic, Russia's RIA Novosti news service reported.

Andrey Karpak, chairman of the State Customs Committee of Luhansk, announced the news at a briefing, indicating that the Baltic businessmen are expected to supply fish, including canned sprats, to Luhansk.

"Work is under way on contracts on fish product deliveries from Baltic states," Karpak said.

He added that entrepreneurs from Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey are also doing business in the self-proclaimed republic.

Didzis Smits, president of the Latvian Fisheries Association, told the BNS newswire that Latvian fish canneries are not going to do business in Luhansk - at least not directly.

“Perhaps something like that might take place through a dozen intermediaries, but no [Latvian fish company] has any intention of doing business with them… I cannot rule out that an intermediary has sold something there, but it is nonsense that a serious Latvian fish cannery was deliberately going to make any deals there,” said Smits.

Russia - which backs the fighters in Eastern Ukraine both covertly and overtly - has banned food imports from the European Union. However, as occupied Eastern Ukraine is still Ukrainian territory, the mysterious middle men have clearly spotted an opportunity to make quick buck in the warzone.

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