Latvia: flag row at the Ice Hockey World Championships
On the fringes of the Ice Hockey World Championships currently taking place in Riga, the city's mayor and the Latvian foreign minister caused a scandal by replacing the official flag of Belarus flying outside the hotel where the teams are staying with the white-red-white version of the opposition. Belarus reacted by expelling the Latvian ambassador and other diplomats. Now Latvia has retaliated by expelling the Belarusian embassy staff.
An effective sign of protest
Neatkarīgā praises the gesture as a courageous move:
“Riga's mayor Mārtins Staķis and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs light-handedly made an undiplomatic gesture. ... The two politicians were not afraid of public opinion. ... On the contrary. Against the background of the justified demonisation of Lukashenka, their gesture even looked very effective and received broad support internationally (with the exception of Russia and the presidential palace in Minsk). This change of flag may well have negative consequences for the Latvian economy, but there is no honour in maintaining superficially good relations with a bandit.”
Whom was this supposed to help?
Diena, on the other hand, finds the swapping of flags pointless:
“Who benefited from it? The Latvian state, the Belarusian opposition, including the dissident Roman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, the EU or Nato? Perhaps the city of Riga or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have a plan to help the victims of the Lukashenka regime? Or do they want to be serious mediators in potential negotiations between the EU and Belarus on Pratasevich's release? Since when is the Riga City Council a foreign policy decision-maker? Since when does the foreign minister participate in acts of hooliganism initiated by the mayor? ”
Pravda is anything but enthusiastic:
“The International Ice Hockey Federation was right when it decided against allowing Belarus to host the World Championship. It would have been unthinkable for players to rejoice over goals while political prisoners are being tortured in Minsk. ... But the incident with the flags is stupid and provocative. It is players from Belarus who are on the ice, not the dictator who hijacked a civilian plane. ... Would the minister and the mayor also replace the British flag with the Scottish flag because the Scots repeatedly asked for a referendum on independence?”