17:18 GMT25 January 2021
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    RIGA (Sputnik) - Russian-speaking journalist Andrey Yakovlev, who headed the Baltnews portal two years ago and now works independently, said on Friday that the Latvian State Security Service (VDD) searched his home and office, seized a number of gadgets and conducted an interrogation, as he was charged with a violation of European Union sanctions.

    "Today, agents of the Latvian State Security Service have searched my home and office, with all sorts of devices and storage equipment being seized. I had to drop in at the VDD for the first interrogation as well. The conversation has taken the whole working day – eight hours," Yakovlev wrote on Facebook on Friday.

    According to Yakovlev, the VDD instituted criminal proceedings against the journalist and sent him a written notification on the issue several months ago.

    "Several months ago, I received a paper from the VDD that informed on the institution of criminal proceedings under Article 84 (1) related to the violation of the Latvian and international sanctions. The violation of the EU sanctions is, for example, goods-money relations with Russian individuals and legal persons included in the sanction list. [The possible punishment is] up to four years of imprisonment, by the way," Yakovlev said.

    The journalist stressed that the VDD initiated criminal proceedings over his past cooperation with the Moscow-based Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, whose director, General Dmitry Kiselev, was targeted by the EU sanctions in 2014. Notably, Yavovlev's work now is not related to the Russian agency.

    "The letter received from the VDD read that International Information Agency Rossiya Segodnya, with which, as stated in the letter, I had some sort of cooperation, is headed by Dmitry Kiselev. And he, as an individual, is under the EU sanctions. A question instantly came to my mind: is the Russian public information agency included in the sanction list? Certainly not," Yakovlev said.

    The journalist added that the VDD agents who carried out the search were polite and adhered strictly to the mask regime.

    Earlier this week, employees of Baltnews and Sputnik Latvija portals were charged with violating the EU sanctions regime, searched, and a recognizance not to leave was taken from them. The charges were brought under Article 84 of the Latvian Criminal Law, which introduces criminal liability for the violation of EU sanctions, with a punishment ranging from a fine to imprisonment.

    On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry said that the aggressive actions of the Latvian VDD against the employees of the Sputnik office in Riga and Russian-speaking journalists was a blatant example of violating the foundations of a democratic society: freedom of media and expression.

    The ministry stressed that the reference to the violation by the Russian-speaking journalists of the EU sanctions regime is categorically unacceptable, as the restrictions were of a personal nature, relating to Kiselev.

    sanctions, security service, questioning, Latvia
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