Latvia Parliament calls Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

BERLIN (AP) — Latvia’s Parliament on Thursday declared Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” for attacks on civilians during the war in Ukraine and urged other countries to follow suit.

Lawmakers adopted a strongly worded statement that accuses Moscow of using “suffering and intimidation as tools in its attempts to demoralize the Ukrainian people and armed forces and paralyze the functioning of the state.”

It declares that Latvia’s Parliament “recognizes Russia’s violence against civilians in pursuit of political aims as terrorism, recognizes Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view.”

Sixty-seven lawmakers in the 100-seat assembly voted in favor of adopting the statement and 16 abstained, the Parliament said.

The resolution says Russian forces are deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilians in the war, including with attacks on a theater in Mariupol in March, a shopping mall in Kremenchuk in June and a residential area of Odesa in July.

Russia rejects deliberately targeting civilians in the conflict, which it describes as a “special military operation.”

The Latvian Parliament also called on Western countries to reinforce sanctions on Russia and urged fellow members of the European Union to stop issuing tourist visas to citizens of Russia and Belarus.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament adopted the statement last week before submitting it to the full assembly.

Committee chairman Rihars Kols said the resolution was a political statement that could have practical implications by inspiring other countries to take similar measures, adding momentum to efforts to reinforce sanctions on Moscow and set up a tribunal to prosecute war crimes.

Neighboring Lithuania adopted a similar resolution in May and Estonia may follow suit in coming weeks, Kols said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the Latvian statement as a manifestation of “xenophobia.”

Sergei Tsekov, a member of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, warned that Russia would take “retaliatory measures that will show Latvia its place and will be quite painful.” That could include restrictions on transit, he said in remarks carried by state news agency RIA Novosti.

The Baltic countries, which spent almost five decades under Soviet occupation, are among the staunchest supporters of Ukraine and the fiercest critics of the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Estonia decided Thursday to stop allowing Russian citizens entry with tourist visas starting Aug. 18. EU countries banned air travel from Russia after it invaded Ukraine, but officials in Estonia and Finland say Russian tourists have circumvented the flight bans by traveling by land to neighboring EU countries and then taking flights to other European destinations.

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