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“They seek to make Russians feel in Latvia as uncomfortable as possible”

EADaily has interviewed Vladimir Linderman, a Latvian oppositionist, political activist, publicist and public worker. Linderman previously faced charges of preparing appeals for the overthrow of the Latvian president. Later, he was acquitted. In 2011-2012, Vladimir Linderman was the key organizer of the referendum to approve the Russian language as the second state language in Latvia. Recently, Linderman appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office against Edvīns Šnore, MP, representative the ruling coalition, for his article recalling Minister Alfred Berzins’ words insulting the Russian identity. Berzins once said that Russians who arrived in Latvia during the Soviet time “keep sneering at Latvia but do not leave it.” He compared Russians with “lice on Latvian coat.”

Will they punish Šnore?

The Prosecutor’s Office may launch legal proceedings, but there is very little chance of that. May be, Mr. Šnore will be slightly reprimanded by the parliamentary ethics commission. To be clear, Šnore is not a marginal politician. He is a parliamentarian from the National Bloc having seats in the government. He is an influential person in his party. He shot an EU-funded, Russophobic false film “Soviet Story” that has been demonstrated in many European capitals.

Why doesn’t Nils Ušakovs Concord Party respond to Šnore’s statement? After all, Russian citizens of Latvia have voted for them…

Concord Party shall not be deemed as defenders of the rights and interests of Russians in Latvia. The party has not proved that it is a defender of Russians and it does not even pose as such. Anyway, people want to believe in what does not exist.

National Bloc, which Šnore is a member of, has decided to demand a rise in language fines again…

Yes, Latvian Saeima started discussing their amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences on May 25. The amendments look to increase fines drastically. At present, the fine for failure to “ensure translation” of public events into Latvian is 35-70 EUR. A repeated violation of the given law will face a fine of 70-140 EUR. National Bloc suggests raising the rate to 8000 EUR for the first violation by legal entities and up to 14000 EUR for a repeated violation. Actually, they suggest a 100-fold rise in the fine. For employers who are registered as legal entities the fine will be 700-3000 EUR for the first violation and 1500-5000 EUR for the second one. They seek hikes in the fines for “failing to use the state language as requested for professional and official duties” from current 25-280 EUR to 700 EUR “for the first violation.” A repeated violation of the given law will prompt termination.

Will they pass those amendments?

The National Bloc has always advocated for toughening of language sanctions; it is not a momentary populism. Perhaps, they decided to do it now, ahead of the June 3 elections to the self-government, for PR. Saeima voted for the suggestions to be submitted to the legal commission i.e. set the bill in motion. I think there will not be that stratospheric rise in fines, despite the National Bloc suggestions. Perhaps, the fines will be increased for legal entities. The goal of these and many other measures is to make the life of Russian citizens in Latvia maximum uncomfortable and force them to leave or be assimilated.

You are organizing human rights defense for Artem Skripnik, a resident of Daugavpils, whom Prosecutor’s Office accuses of joining Donbass militia. Do you see any prospects in his case?

I would not predict the verdict against Skripnik. Legally, he shall be acquitted, as the prosecution has no proofs of his guilt. The article he has faced was passed after he was back from Donbass. It is a political case. Will judge go on such risk and acquit him? Imagine, what if this happens and Skripnik is freed in the court…The judge will be persecuted and labeled as a “Kremlin agent” etc. I do hope the court will have enough courage and sense of justice to issue acquittal.

Last year, you were the first to name Alexander Krasnoperov, a track master from Jeglava, who was arrested over espionage charges in favor of Russia. What do you anticipate from his case?

Krasnoperov is accused of photographing NATO equipment openly transported by railway and sending the photos to someone in Russia. Does any law bans photographing what is not hidden from the public? Krasnoperov’s trial will start on June 12. The lawyer, relatives of the defendant, and he himself under their influence chose the “silence” tactics. They do not contact with mass media or public workers. I think such tactics is wrong in the political and politicized cases, but, as people say, one cannot build his brain into other’s head. In case of wide public support, he would have a chance for acquittal, and it would be quite big a chance. Since there is no coverage of his case in media, he will be convicted eventually. Minister of the interior and the police head make very confident statements on his guilt. Meantime, what I know makes me think that the charges are unsubstantiated. Simply, special services try their best to show at least one Russian “spy” to the people. Otherwise, it will look strange that in the heat of “hybrid war” against Russia, there are no spies or saboteurs.

Recently, you have published an appeal to NATO military in Latvia inviting them to the May 9 events. Did you receive any response?

People from Canada and England contacted me. They were not from the military contingent in Baltics, but there were ex-military among them. All them were against that stupid sabre rattling on the border with Russia. People are different; they have right-wing and left-wing views. We are establishing ties and thinking what to do next.

Last year, you applied to the U.S. Embassy in Riga asking to tackle such problems as recruiting of Islamic extremists in Latvia.

The embassy did not reply. Nor have I waited for a reply. I had a task to break provocations by local special services. They were leaving special posts in the web to attract volunteers. For instance, one could write on his account in social media: I am a Donetsk fighter and ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia - EADaily) supporter at the same time. Actually, they tried to create a criminal case and mix Donetsk and Lugansk militia and Islamic terrorists to discredit the supporters of Donbass republics. After my letter, those posts have disappeared.

You have recently won the trial over forgery of your Party registration documents. Will it remove the claims against your Party “For Native Language.”

They have closed down the party for formal reasons. Those reasons have accumulated because they did not let us adopt our program (they called it anti-governmental). They have interrogated ordinary members of the Party. They created so many obstacles to our activity. My victory in the court is my personal victory. My defense managed to get acquittal of the absurd accusations of document forgery. However, that victory cannot have any impact on Party “For Native Language”; it was liquidated.

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