"We are regarding the aggressive actions of the State Security Service of Latvia, taken on December 3 against the employees of the Sputnik office in Riga and Russian-speaking journalists, as a blatant example of violating the foundations of a democratic society: freedom of media and expression. Let us remind you that the journalists were detained, interrogated and searched, and criminal charges were brought against them," the statement said.
The statement went on to stress that the reference to the Sputnik Latvija team violating the EU sanctions regime is "categorically unacceptable".
"The reference to the violation by the Sputnik Latvija team of the EU sanctions regime is categorically unacceptable. These restrictions are of a personal nature, relate personally to Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Director General, Dmitry Kiselev, and cannot apply to everyone, who cooperates with the media holding," the ministry outlined.
According to the statement, the crackdown is a punitive action of a Russophobic nature.
“The issue will be raised at the OSCE Ministerial Council. We also hope that the new OSCE representative on freedom of the media will not leave these developments without attention and during his further work, he will tell Latvia that such attacks on media are unacceptable and it must comply with the international obligations on ensuring the freedom of speech,” the statement added.
Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan has expressed hope that Russia will not leave the unfriendly steps of Latvia without response.
“The journalists, who are cooperating with us, are facing criminal charges. Of course, over the cooperation with us. Searches. Non-disclosure agreements. We have no communication with some of them. Hopefully, the Motherland will find the way to respond,” Simonyan wrote in her Telegram channel on Friday.
Sputnik reported earlier that employees of Baltnews and Sputnik Latvija portals had been charged with violating the EU sanctions regime, were searched, and a recognizance not to leave was taken from them. According to the agency, the charges were brought under Article 84 of the Latvian Criminal Law, the violation of the EU sanctions regime, with a punishment ranging from a fine to imprisonment.
Earlier in late 2019, Sputnik Estonia was pressured by authorities in the country to shut down its operations in Tallinn. The authorities referred to EU sanctions imposed on Dmitry Kiselev, the head of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, that include Sputnik Estonia. The outlet itself, however, has not been seen on any sanctions list.