Picket in Riga, Latvia

On Monday, 18 July, arriving for a visit in Riga, Angela Merkel was greeted with a protest action. At noon, people came to the German embassy in Riga with banners “NO to the sanctions war”, “European Union is not a US satellite”, “Frau Merkel, stop the war in Ukraine!”, “When the Germans lose weight, the Latvians will have starved to death”.

The picket in Riga was organized by followers of “The Latvian Russian Union” party, who were indignant at the indifference that Germany shows to its European neighbours. The protesters explain that socio-economic situations in Latvia and Germany are absolutely different. While the sanctions against Russia make Germany tighten its belt a bit, Latvia will literally have to starve.

“In this case we mean that the German economy has a safety margin. While the German economy is able to stand the stress, caused by the Russia’s reciprocal sanctions, Latvian economy is too vulnerable to any shock. This was evident in 2008 when the republic suffered the most as a result of the international financial crisis. And now we have every reason to believe that a cumulative effect of the tit-for-tat sanctions war between EU and Russia will hit the Latvian economy as hard as it was hit during the 2008 crisis”, says Mitrofanov.

“This must be averted. We urge Merkel to influence her EU colleagues and lift the sanctions as soon as possible. And, of course, we urge her to influence the Latvian leaders so that they don’t engage in so much aggressive anti-Russian rhetoric. The acute phase of the crisis will be over but the relations will not go back to normal for a long time, because Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, has made extremely aggressive statements on Russia as well as performed some unfriendly acts”, adds Mitrofanov.

Mitrofanov points out that even the Latvian government admits a 10 % drop in the bilateral trade. However, he is convinced that the economic losses will be much more serious. “Government analysts take into account only the current export to Russia, but we are sure that the sanctions war will cause withdrawal of capital from EU to China and the US. This will be a large-scale investment and financial crisis. We estimate that the losses may reach up to one third of the GDP. This means closing down factories and another dramatic rise in unemployment figures”, says Mitrofanov.

According to Mitrofanov, their 40-minute picket in front of the German embassy attracted the diplomats’ attention. Some of them came out to them and took photos with them, took photos of their banners. That’s why they believe that their protest will be heard by Angela Merkel.

Earlier, on 15 August, the Latvian capital held a protest action against the country’s foreign policy. Dozens of people gathered in front of the Foreign Affairs Office and protested against the sanctions imposed by the Latvian government that had caused a trade conflict with Russia.

“Last week we held a rally against the Foreign Ministry’s actions. Until there is way to solve all these problems, until we feel that the situation is coming back to normal, we won’t let the government relax. We will try and go on demonstrations every week”, says Mitrofanov.

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