Latvian leadership is panic-stricken, as Russia is reportedly keen to halt transit of coal via the local railway and the Riga Port, EADaily correspondent reports.
Riga Vice Mayor Andris Ameriks was the first to announce such a possibility on the Latvian television. Ameriks said he had unofficial data that Russia might halt transit of coal via the Riga Port. He said every transferred coal cargo gives the Latvian economy 10 EUR added value. “As coal cargoes weight approximately 13-14 tons, Latvia’s economy will lose up to 130-140 million EUR annually,” he said. Latvian Minister for Communications and Works Anrijs Matiss told BNS he received informal notifications from his Russian colleagues saying Russia will halt transit of coal and mineral fertilizers via Riga.
Afterwards, Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs raised alarms leaving a post on Facebook social media: “There is alarming news that the Russian Railways stops transit of all cargoes via Latvia. No one conceals that it is a political decision. About 20,000 people are engaged in the Riga Port. Another 8000 people work at the Latvian Railways. Add to them their families. At least 75,000 people are endangered now. This is comparable to the second largest city in Latvia, Daugavpils. What we can count upon now is that the government will start speaking of the need to diversify and reduce risks, not speaking of the fact that it was the incumbent coalition that did everything for Latvia to lose the transit. The ports and railway on the border with Russia cannot be diversified. Emigration is what may become a true diversification for 75,000 our citizens engaged in the Riga Port and the Latvian Railways. Sharikov and Schwonder comparing to our government and right-wing politicians were highly-qualified professional top-managers.”
Aivars Straksas, the acting head of the Latvian Railways, confirmed that information later. Talking to reporters, Straksas said Russia restricts the transit of coal for two months due to the poor state of the rails. “They will be repairing the rails. Russia did not specify where particularly the rails have been damaged,” Straksas said. He confirmed that the rails need repair, adding that he cannot say “what was behind Russia’s decision.”
Finally, Prime Minister of Latvia Laimdota Straujuma expressed her views over the situation. She said on Baltkom radio that the reason why Russia may halt the coal transit via the Riga Port might be the last week’s detention of Ugis Magonis, the former head of the Latvian Railways over corruption charges. “Yet, it is my suspicions. The Latvian Embassy in Moscow is currently in contact with the relevant services in Russia. Official sources in Russia disclaim the reports on possible termination of the coal transit. Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told me there are no official data from Russia so far,” Straujuma said.