Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma (Janek Skarzynski / AFP)
RIGA, LATVIA — Latvia on Thursday said it would open a NATO-backed strategic communications center in the capital Riga amid fears the Kremlin is influencing the Baltic state’s large ethnic Russian minority over the Ukraine crisis.
The center will focus on providing an alternative to the official Russian narrative on the crisis and should receive full NATO accreditation “by the end of the summer,” the Latvian defense ministry told AFP.
Concern runs high in all three of the formerly Soviet-ruled Baltic states that Russia is mounting a propaganda campaign to win over the region’s ethnic Russians, who account for around a quarter of the population in both Latvia and Estonia.
Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma on Thursday said Russia was waging an “information war” in Latvia, which joined NATO and the European Union in 2004.
“The Latvian government cannot allow foreign countries to meddle internally, undermining the state,” Straujuma told parliament.
Lawmakers also backed legislation more than doubling defense spending to the NATO-recommended minimum of two percent of GDP by 2020.