Israeli Embassy Threatened Amid Growing Tension in Latvia

The Israeli Embassy in Latvia is the latest target of a campaign against the country’s Jews.

The embassy, which is located in the Latvian capital of Riga, received a bomb threat Thursday that paralyzed the work of the mission for more than two hours — no bomb was found.

The threat against the Israeli legation came one week after Riga’s only synagogue was seriously damaged by a bomb. Two senior Latvian security officials were dismissed after the bombing and the country’s National Security Council recommended ousting the army’s commander in chief, Juris Dalbins.

Dalbins had come under sharp criticism for participating in a march last month in Riga of Latvian Nazi SS veterans. Some have linked the public activity of the veterans to recent violence against Jews, which also included the desecration of a Holocaust memorial in a Jewish cemetery.

On Thursday, Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis accepted Dalbins’ resignation.

Meanwhile, the search for those responsible for the synagogue attack has been narrowed down to two individuals, police officials said.

The investigation, involving some 2,200 police officers, has been described as the largest in Latvia in 20 years. A total of 265 people were taken into custody, of whom 40 were wanted in connection with other crimes.

Many government buildings and religious sites in Riga are now under constant police surveillance.

Earlier this week, a land mine exploded outside the Russian Embassy in Riga. No one was hurt in Monday’s attack, which Latvian police said they believed was linked to the synagogue bombing.

Latvian officials have said the attacks are aimed at complicating the Baltic nation’s relations with the West and Russia.

Latvia, which is lobbying for membership in NATO and the European Union, has been at pains to avoid an international row over the recent incidents.

Ulmanis said in an interview last week that the SS veterans’ march and synagogue bombing had badly damaged his country’s image. The Latvian leader said he feared that in two weeks his country had “lost all that it gained” in previous negotiations with the European body.

Recent incidents also have further complicated already strained relations between Riga and Moscow over Latvia’s treatment of the 700,000-strong Russian- speaking minority in the Baltic republic.

Russia has accused Latvia of treating its Russian minority as second-class citizens. Most of the ethnic Russian and other non-Latvian speaking citizens were denied Latvian passports after the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

To many Latvian nationalists, the Jewish community is associated with the Russian-speaking minority.

A significant portion of the 17,000-member Jewish community in Latvia shares the citizenship problems of the country’s Russian speakers, having originally arrived in Latvia between 1940 and 1991, the years of the Soviet domination in the Baltic region.

Russian officials announced this week that defending Latvia’s Jewish community is a Russian interest.

“We also seek to defend the interests of the [Latvian] Jewish community,” Alexander Avdeev, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Thursday.

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