Latvia will pay a price for showing disrespect for the flag of Belarus. This is not a personal banner that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko owns, but a national symbol of a whole nation.
President of Latvia Egils Levits said in an interview with TV3's "900 Seconds" program that the decision to replace the Belarusian flag on the flagpoles of the countries participating in the World Ice Hockey Championship came as an adequate political reaction. According to Levits, it also came as a message to everyone else signalling that Latvia does not recognize the regime in the neighboring country.
The incident took place on Monday, May 24, in Riga, near Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija.
The Mayor of Riga, Martins Stakis, personally took the official flag of Belarus down and replaced it with a red-and-white flag. According to Levits, the subsequent decision from Belarus to expel all Latvian diplomats from the country was a reaction "to Latvia's consistent actions," which condemned "an unprecedented and blatant violation of international law that put international air traffic in jeopardy."
Levits stressed that Latvia demanded "a number of measures" to "resolve the situation" in the European Union, which the Council of Europe approved too. It goes about the decision for European airlines not to fly over Belarus.
It is worthy of note that the red-and-white flag ('bel-chyrvona-bely stsyag', known for its acronym as 'BChB'), is a symbol, under which Nazi collaborators had burned Belarusian villages and residents during the Great Patriotic War. This flag has nothing to do with the historical values of Belarus.
Therefore, it was not an official demarche that Riga staged against Lukashenko, the "dictator" — Latvia spat into the soul of the Belarusian people.
The termination of diplomatic relations between Belarus and Latvia will put an end to Belarusian exports and transits, as well as to unemployment and loss of income for the Latvian budget in critically important sectors.
In January, Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkays said that Latvia was interested in the transit of Belarusian goods to Nordic countries and was not going to abandon the trade initiative.
According to lv.baltnews.com, in 2019, about one-fifth of all freight transported by Latvian railways came either from Belarus or to Belarus. In total, it goes about seven million tons of freight, mainly petroleum products.
The chief of the Ventspils Free Port, Andris Purmalis, told the LDz newspaper that Belarus-related freight could amount to 20 percent of the total transshipment volume.
"The Belarusians wanted to open production right in the industrial zone of the port. There's a building under construction for them, it is to be commissioned in the coming months, so cooperation with Belarus is very important for us,” Andris Purmalis added.
On April 20 this year, Valeriy Sadokho, Director of the National Marketing Center, stressed out the importance of building cooperation with Latvia both in the bilateral format and in the regional context. He noted that by the end of 2020, Belarusian exports to Latvia, excluding oil products and fertilizers, amounted to about US $300 million.
In 2018, Belarusian exports to Latvia increased by 38.8 percent to $485.6 million. Belarus supplies primarily timber and woodworking products, petroleum products, petrochemicals, metal products, fertilizers, insulated wires and cables, construction materials and spirits.
All the above will have to go now.
The West has been putting pressure on Belarus since August 2019, when Western countries refused to recognise the results of the presidential election in Belarus and condemning the suppression of protests. In Lithuania, an alternative Belarusian administration was formed with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the head.
The British press has recently reported that Russia was going to conduct a nuclear test either on the borders with Ukraine or in the Black Sea.