Latvian FM: ‘Baltics no longer a bridge between Russia and the West’

The Baltic states can no longer cast themselves in the role of a bridge between Russia and the West, the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, has said in an interview with the Guardian.

Successive crises have shown Russian determination to interfere in western democracy or use the Baltic banks to launder corrupt money, Rinkēvičs said after a visit to London during which he met Dominic Grieve, the chair of the UK intelligence and security committee.

The committee is completing a report on Russian influence in the UK, including its role in money laundering and disinformation, that is likely to call for fresh measures to control the flow of corrupt Russian money in the UK.

Latvia’s third-largest lender, ABLV Bank, collapsed in February 2018 after US authorities accused it of “a wide array of illicit conduct,” linked to North Korea’s weapons programme and corruption in Russia and Ukraine. And in June, prosecutors charged the central bank governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs with bribery.

In November 2018, the country’s then finance minister Dana Reizniece-Ozala spoke to Emerging Europe about how the country had begun to reform its financial sector, showing stronger dedication to protecting the sector from potential illicit flows of money.