To enter Latvia, they must sign statements condemning their country as an “aggressor,” state media reports
Non-citizens entering Latvia from Russia or Belarus must sign statements condemning the military operation in Ukraine as “aggression” and will have their Schengen visas canceled if they refuse. The Baltic country’s security service neither denied nor directly confirmed this on Friday to the Latvian public broadcaster, following reports that dozens of foreigners have been denied entry.
Foreigners who enter Latvia from “aggressor country” Russia or Belarus face “increased scrutiny” at border checkpoints, the State Security Service (known by its Latvian abbreviation VDD) told LSM public radio.
“The purpose of the inspections is to identify persons who support Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and may pose a threat to Latvia’s national security,” the VDD said in a statement, adding that they focus on people who may have served in the military or security forces, “publicly demonstrate symbols glorifying Russian aggression or express a negative attitude towards the Latvian state.”
“A large number of foreigners who were refused entry to Latvia openly expressed their support for Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and its people, using typical Kremlin war propaganda messages,” according to the VDD.
Since February, a total of 62 foreigners have been barred from entering Latvia, of which 41 were Russian nationals, 14 were from Belarus, and seven were from other countries but VDD assessed they could “pose a threat to Latvia’s national security.” Those turned back also had their Schengen visas for EU travel canceled.
LSM spoke with a woman named Svetlana, whose husband – a Russian citizen and Latvian permanent resident – recently traveled to Russia for his mother’s funeral. Upon returning, he was required to sign a document denouncing Russia.
“He drove up to the customs post. The border guard took the documents from him. And a man in civilian clothes came, with a sign ‘Border. Security. Safety.’ on his vest. He invited my husband inside. There he gave him the paper without any identifying marks. The paper was in Russian and English. The text was already prepared, he just had to enter his name, surname and passport data,” she told the broadcaster, her voice distorted to protect her identity.
When Svetlana’s husband asked why he had to sign such a document, the official told him his residence would be revoked if he didn’t.
Moscow sent a protest note to Latvia on Wednesday concerning the coerced statements. Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said the practice is perfectly legal.
“Protesting against what we do or don’t do in our national territory, protecting our security and reducing risks, is pointless. We will continue to act in our security interests,” he told LSM. Rinkevics also urged Latvians not to travel to Russia or Belarus, saying now is “not the best time” for tourism.
Just in the last two months, however, over 50,000 people left Latvia for Russia – but only 4,000 of them were subject to Latvian jurisdiction, the state border guard said. Latvia denies citizenship to its ethnic Russian population.