Belarus launches criminal case against mayor of Riga and Latvian Foreign Minister

Prosecutor General of Belarus Andrei Shved has filed a criminal case against the mayor of Riga and the Latvian Foreign Minister for the act of solidarity with the Belarusians as “inciting ethnic hatred.” The case was sent to the Investigative Committee for preliminary investigation.

Replacement of the state Belarusian flag with the white-red-white one. Riga, Latvia. May 24, 2021. Photo: Mārtiņš Staķis / Twitter

On May 28, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had reviewed publications about the actions of Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis – and called the publications “reports of a serious crime.” According to him, their actions revealed: “fomentation of national discord on the grounds of national belonging” (part 3 of the article130 of the criminal code).

“Such mockery of the state symbols humiliated the national dignity of the Belarusians,” wrote the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Mārtiņš Staķis responded by suggesting that Lukashenka “seek justice in The Hague,” while Rinkēvičs said that this “shows the desperation and frenzy of the Lukashenka regime.”

Because of the flag action, Belarus announced the expulsion of the Latvian ambassador within 24 hours and the rest of the embassy staff within 48 hours. Latvia decided to expel the Ambassador of Belarus and all Belarusian diplomats in response.

The action was opposed by the International Ice Hockey Federation and its president Rene Fasel. They demanded that Riga either return the red-green flag or remove World Championship and IIHF flags from the places where the flags had been replaced. The Latvian side chose the second option. Latvian President Egils Levits supported this.

Staķis explained: because Belarus hijacked the Ryanair flight, it was unacceptable to “stay silent, pretend nothing was going on and just enjoy the hockey.” He added that he wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t know that the people of Riga, who believe in the ideals of freedom and independence, were behind it.