Russia Update: Latvia Spots Russian Warships, Submarine Near Its Territorial Waters

May 4, 2015
Port of Riga, March 26, 2015 from Black Hawk flight. Photo by Karlis Dambrans.

Latvia has spotted Russian warships and a submarine off its coast.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.


Russia This Week:

What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)

Special features:

With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo

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Lithuanian Prosecutor General Reportedly Detains Russian Suspected of Espionage

A Russian citizen has reportedly been arrested for espionage in Lithuania, reports, citing a notice on the web site of the prosecutor general of Lithuania.

The notice only gave the initials of the detainee as “N.F.” and the date of birth, 1977. The notice said the suspect was an officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

Lithuania authorities said information was collected that revealed the suspect was gathering intelligence on the Lithuanian government, law-enforcement and intelligence in order to penetrate them.

On April 30, the Vilnius District Court satisfied the petition of the prosecutor to detain the suspect for three months during the investigation.

Thus an attempt was prevented by Russian intelligence to gain classified information and thus “manipulate and influence the process of decision-making in Lithuania at the highest level,” said the prosecutor’s office.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Warships Preventing Lithuania and Sweden from Laying Underwater Cable

Lithuania and Sweden are complaining that Russian warships are preventing the laying of underwater cable along the floor of the Baltic Sea, Delfi reported, citing Norway’s Aftonbladet and the Latvian Foreign Ministry.

The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Andrius Krivas also made a protest to Russia, said Delfi, citing Finland’s YLE Uutiset TV.

According to a statement on the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s website, the Russian ambassador was summoned about the 4th incident this year:

The Vice-Minister expressed strong protest on the repeated Russia’s
naval activities in the exclusive economic zone of Lithuania in the
Baltic Sea, which disrupt peaceful shipping and economic activity in
violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS) provisions.

On April 30 the Russian ship of the Russian Navy Baltic Fleet
during its regular military exercises entered the Lithuanian exclusive
economic zone and illegally ordered to change course to the ALCEDO ship
managed by the ABB group.

After similar incidents that have taken place on 19 March, April 10
and 24 April this year Lithuanian Foreign Ministry sent protest Notes to
Russian MFA. Lithuania also coordinates its activities with Sweden as
the activities of the Russian navy are attempts to interfere with the
construction work of the sea cable ‘NordBalt’. So far there has been no
reaction to these Notes from the Russian authorities in charge. These
actions of the Russian Navy Baltic Fleet were carried out under the
excuse of protection of their military exercise zones. Russian
authorities have never asked Lithuanian institutions or received any
prior authorization for such activities in exclusive economic zone of

The NordBalt sea cable is being laid between Klaipeda and the Swedish Nybro. According to Aftonbladet, the Baltic companies are hoping to reduce their independence on Russian energy through the cable.

Earlier today we reported that Latvia recorded three Russian warships, a submarine and an AN-22 military transport plane near its borders on May 3.

Recently, four defense ministers and one foreign minister of the Nordic states
issued a joint statement of concern about Russian propaganda and
aggressive actions, signally their determination to remain united in
cooperation to deter the provocations.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Latvia Spots Russian Warships, Submarine Near Its Territorial Waters; Also AN-22 Near Border
Yesterday May 3, the National Armed Forces of Latvia spotted a squadron of Russian war ships, including a submarine five nautical miles from its territorial waters, Delfi and reported.

The Latvian military also recorded a Russian military transport An-22 plane in the border zone.

The sightings appeared to be yet another Russian provocation against a Baltic state by sending craft just to the edge of encroachment.

Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics had just  complained about the Russian provocations the day before, in an op-ed piece calling for better response to Russia’s hostilities, and discounting Russia’s claim that the Russian minority in Latvia is discriminated against.

The complex nature of this threat demands a
multi-faceted response. Measures to counter information, economic and
cyber attacks must be part of the security toolkit. Early-warning
systems should be recalibrated to better detect paramilitary attacks.
And we must be ready to respond to hostilities at a threshold lower than
what we are accustomed to.

Some of these tools are in place, such as reinforced national cyber
defences, economic and financial sanctions, and the Riga-based NATO
Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.

In Latvia we face daily
false claims that our Russian-minority is discriminated against. As any
visitor will confirm, Latvia is an open and tolerant society where
diversity is not only protected, but celebrated. For example, the state
finances education programmes in seven minority languages, including
Russian. And in a Eurobarometer survey 68% of respondents in Latvia
think that ethnic discrimination in Latva is non-existent or infrequent
while the EU average is only 39%.

Other steps, like the proposal to create a new EU Energy Union and
ease Europe’s long-term dependence on Russian gas, are in the pipeline.
So too is the pledge to reverse falling defence expenditures and commit
at least 2% of GDP to defence. This must be a genuine target, not a
false fantasy.

The Foreign Minister called for “cast-iron commitment to NATO’s principle of collective self-defense” and “an enduring transatlantic link” because the threat is not just to the Baltic states themselves but “global stability and the rules-based system that we previously took for granted,” he said.

Russia’s fierce propaganda barrage is not only about the minority rights issue, as bloggers citing an article in on the pro-Kremlin site
indicate. Where once the Baltic states supposedly could say to Russia
that it would have to move its oil and other raw materials across the
Baltic ports to reach Europe, “now Riga is the first to capitulate,” says cites Andris Piebalgs, now advisor to the Latvian president on the economy and European affairs, who said recently that “the conception of Latvia as a bridge between West and East is not working, and has to be rejected.” He said Russian transit was not enough on which to build the Latvian economy.

Russia has been able to attract “more than 70% of the post-Soviet Western transit” to its own ports, claims This is why Piebalgs is recommending that Latvia re-orient to Scandinavian ports.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick