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Moscow angered by Latvia’s expulsion of Russian journalist

January 4, 2018

Moscow reacted angrily on Thursday to Latvia’s expulsion of a Russian journalist, accusing Riga of violating UN rules and ramping up tensions between the small Baltic nation and its giant neighbour.

Olga Kurlayeva, correspondent in Latvia for the Russian television channel VGTRK, was expelled on the basis of “absurd accusations” that the reporter posed a threat to national security, said Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

The accusations against Kurlayeva recall “those used by totalitarian regimes in Spain and Germany in the 1930s,” she added, in comments cited by the Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

A spokesman for Latvia’s border guard service confirmed to AFP that a Russian citizen “was detained after it was confirmed she is on the list of persons who are denied entry to Latvia”.

“Currently, according to the law, further procedural steps are being taken to expel that person,” he added, giving no names.

Another Russian national living in Riga was also detained and expelled under immigration laws, said the spokesman, speaking anonymously.

That person is believed to be Anatoly Kurlayev, Kurlayeva’s husband who works for the Russian Rsentr TV channel, Zakharova said.

“It is absolutely clear that the Latvian authorities, with the silent support of Brussels, are attempting to suppress all non-desirable media from the country,” Zakharova added.

Riga is “violating the fundamental rules of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe,” and Russia will make an “appropriate response at the international bodies,” she said.

Such expulsions of Russians from EU and NATO member Latvia, as well as from its Baltic neighbours Lithuania and Estonia, have been part of a tense relationship with Moscow, amid continuing concern over Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict and its 2014 annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.

In May, Estonia expelled two Russian diplomats, prompting the tit-for-tat expulsion of two Estonian diplomats from Russia.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.