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Mayor of Latvia’s capital city goes to Moscow to protect Latvian producers

August 15, 2014, 11:01 UTC+3 RIGA
Retailers in Moscow and the Moscow region have organised over 20 Riga’s Yards, which offer over 300 products, including diary, tinned sprats and confectionery
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Nil Ushakov

Nil Ushakov

© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Starkov

RIGA, August 15. /ITAR-TASS/. Mayor of Latvia’s capital city Nil Ushakov plans to come to Moscow in late August - early September to rescue the Riga’s Yard food project, affected by the Russian tit-for-tat sanctions.

Riga’s Yards are special sections in Russian supermarkets, which offer goods from Latvia.

The mayor said in an exclusive interview with ITAR-TASS on Friday “it is very important for us to keep the Riga’s Yard project.”

“The project has required many efforts. It is a good project, and we do not want to lose relations with Moscow retailers. Clearly, if we are removed from supermarkets for some time, the places may be taken by either Armenian Yards or by Brazil Yards. Moscow is a pampered market, and the competition is very high there,” he said.

Retailers in Moscow and the Moscow region have organised over 20 Riga’s Yards, which offer over 300 products, including diary, tinned sprats and confectionery.

The mayor continued saying Riga’s legislators had been assisting Latvian producers in promoting their food products in the Russian markets.

“For us and personally for myself, the key objective now is to apply every effort to keep the Riga’s Yards project. We believe and hope the sanctions war is over sooner or later, and we hope it happens rather sooner than later,” he said.

In Moscow, Riga’s mayor will also promote the image of the Latvian capital city as a tourism centre.

“We are happy to welcome Russian tourists. This year, they make about a third of all the tourist inflow, and we are interested in keeping it so. We shall compete for having Russian tourists travelling to Europe visit Riga first of all,” the mayor said.

Riga mayor about sanctions

“The whole story about EU sanctions and Russia’s response is a very bad thing. A sanction war between Europe and Russia is the last thing we all want now, given the current events in the world,” he said.

“The idea of sanctions was doomed to failure from the very start, irrespective of how different European countries saw the events in Ukraine and Russia’s contribution to these events,” Ushakovs said. “Sanctions will be futile, and Russia’s response was a logical consequence. You didn’t need to be a psychic or futurologist to guess this would happen.”

Escalating tension in European-Russian relations affected the climate between Latvia and Russia, which is multiplied by the election race in Latvia, the mayor added. It was the election campaign that was the reason the recent outrageous decision of the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevich to ban entry to Latvia for three Russian artists, he said.

Infographics Economical sanctions against Russia Economical sanctions against Russia
The USA, EU, Canada and Australia have introduced sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. Infographics by ITAR-TASS
“I think this is a classic example of how Latvia’s foreign policy and interests became hostages to the election race and very selfish interests of a certain politician,” said Ushakov. “Mr Rinkevich is a parliamentary candidate, and he needs the right image ahead of the election. To increase chances to be elected, unfortunately, he chose this scandalous path.”

Ushakov said it would be “sad” if sanctions somehow affected transit, railway operations and Latvian ports, primarily Riga port. The Latvian Railways (LZD) was an important employer, Ushakovs said. Because of track gauge, LZD is directly dependent on Russia, 85% of cargo was connected to Russia, and the same was true about Latvian ports, the mayor added.

“Unfortunately, we had a sad experience about 10 years ago, when the oil pipeline was shut off. Everybody said it was temporary, and Russia would not be able to build new ports. But Russia did, while the pipeline now is just scrap metal. Therefore, we do not benefit from tense relations between Europe and Russia,” he said.

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