Latvia is experiencing another political scandal. Oppositional political Association “the Consent Center” under the leadership of the mayor of Riga Nile Ushakov ahead of presidential elections put forward as their candidate is known and respected in the country man — the former head of the Latvian Union of Baptist communities, Bishop pēteris Sproģis. However has not passed also two weeks as he was forced to withdraw his candidacy. Those who yesterday put Sproģis an example to all other public figures, with the same zeal began to persecute and accuse him of having ties with Moscow. “the Tape.ru” understood, as Mr Bishop has become a “Kremlin agent”.
In the near future in Latvia there are two events that will determine the future of the country for the next few years: in October 2018 parliamentary elections will be held in June 2019, the presidential. Among those who will try to break the political Olympus will be a “Center of the Consent” with its largest parliamentary faction, and consistently high rating.
But the ruling coalition of “Soglasie” year after year is not allowed in the party is a lot of Russian, so it is constantly accused of having ties with Moscow. The leader of the Association nil Ushakov is trying to get rid of the image of “Pro-Russian” policy last year, “the Consent Center” has even come from the cooperation agreement with the United Russia, but actively seeking contacts with influential American politicians.
the staff of the Latvian “Centre for investigative journalism Re: Baltica” and the American portal Buzzfeed.com found out that Ushakov hired authoritative political adviser, Christian ferry, which in the recent past worked with the senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
In an interview with reporters, ferry said that helps the mayor of Riga with the strategic decision-making, the development of political programs and analysis of public opinion. Afterwards, the journalists asked whether ferry moral discomfort when working on “the Consent Center”, which recently “openly expressed sympathy for Russian foreign policy.” In response, the consultant chided reporters that they have forgotten how the mayor has publicly condemned what is happening in the South-East of Ukraine and said that it considers Crimea as its integral part.
And recently, “the Consent Center” has submitted a list of candidates for Ministerial posts — it demonstrates a clear desire to win the sympathy of the ethnic Latvian electorate. There are a lot of people with Latvian surnames and politicians who have taken part in Ministerial posts as part of other ruling parties. The presence of these individuals as if signaled by Latvian parties that “the Consent Center” — “your”, and you can work with them and negotiate.
However, the most powerful move Christian ferry became the presidential candidate of the “center of the Consent” Bishop pēteris Sproģis. It was assumed that this is the man who will be able to reconcile the Russian and Latvian voter. In addition, the President Sproģis well in the United States, relations with which Latvia considers as its foreign policy priority.
Sprogis was born in Ventspils in 1973, at 16 years old was baptized and entered in the city’s Baptist community. Theological education and a master’s degree he received in the Eastern Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia. During her studies, the future Bishop got useful connections and acquaintances in the United States. Since December 1996, he served as a preacher in Riga Baptist community of Saint Matthew, and in 2002 he was ordained a pastor. Four years later, by decision of the General Assembly of the Union of the Baptist communities of Latvia Sprogis received the title of Bishop, becoming the youngest head of this organization. Sprogis re-elected three times to this post and 12 years headed the Latvian Baptists — influential enough in the country community.
Sproģis was considered one of the most respected and charismatic priests Latvia. In 2012, he suffered a heavy loss: the death of his four year old daughter. Then at a prayer Breakfast, he delivered a passionate speech, saying that the incident has not shaken his faith in the Lord.
the Bishop has repeatedly spoken out on political issues — and he immediately took a conciliatory stance, trying to extinguish the conflict between Latvian and Russian communities. He criticised the complete “laterization” Russian schools, condemned the corruption rampant in the higher echelons of power, called politicians to think more about protecting the interests of Latvia, but not about how to get a good position in the structures European Union. All this allowed him to gain the respect of many voters.
In may 2018 at the annual Congress of Baptist communities of Latvia, was elected the new Bishop, and freed from their duties Sprogis soon proposed to go into politics. He agreed, not even knowing what the test will be for him to attempt to engage in political activities. Sprogis has declared its readiness not only to run for President in 2019, but to head the list “Consent Center” from the Vidzeme region, in the next parliamentary elections. However, as soon as the news of the nomination was made public, his world, as later told the Bishop, suddenly collapsed. It was not a criticism, began a real persecution — and participated in it, and ordinary citizens and famous people.
“I’m in shock. But “Consent” came Oh, how wise: your rankings will rise due to the popularity of the Bishop Sproģis. Oh, Peteris, Peteris…” — lamented the journalist Elita veidemane.
“Peteris, whom I respect a lot: why do you destroy my faith in good?” — asked historian Victor Dabolins.
“So artfully. Terribly”, — commented on the decision Sproģis former parliamentarian, doctor of Philology Vineta Porina.
“I seen a lot, but can’t understand what higher or rather lower forces forced the priest to choose Sproģis “Consent”?” — surprised the MEP from Latvia Artis Pabriks.
“Another kangar (character of Latvian folklore, symbolizing the betrayal, Prim. “Of the tape.ru”),” commented parliamentary Secretary Ministry of justice Janis Iesalnieks. And this is only the mildest of remarks about the Bishop, “to sell the Pro-Moscow party.”
“I became a traitor for many Latvians”, — with bitterness spoke then Sprogis. The Bishop made a public attempt to explain his decision, saying that what he’s running from the “Russian” party, does not mean the abdication from national ideals. “Do they think that I can buy? I always believed that Latvia was occupied. I believe that only the Latvian language should be the language of independent Latvia, wrote Sprogis. — Knows not only “Consent”. In the world there are different views and political beliefs, but this does not prevent people to work together. That is different views on the same things open up new opportunities for dialogue that has already begun and I hope will yield good results”.
the Bishop has promised that he will not back down from his decision to run for President, but called it a new batch of spitting and sarcastic comments. So, journalist Egils Licitis said that Sprogis had walked into a trap set by the Bishop and the devil in the face of Pro-Kremlin forces. “Bright, sincere, intelligent, good-natured man. Suddenly he was in the Kremlin wheelchair “Consent”! — do not let the journalist of veidemane. — Feels as if someone died unexpectedly. Still hoping he will come round”.
Apparently, the last straw was the statement of the Baptist community: brothers in Christ encouraged now not to associate Sproģis with the Baptists of Latvia. Soon, the day of his 45th birthday, Sprogis has officially declared that refuses participation in elections.
“My goal was, is and will be the search for reconciliation in a divided society of Latvia, so we can form a unified country in which all feel safe and not rejected, the Bishop said in a statement. For that to happen, we must learn to forgive, learn to respect the experience and opinions of each other, not to live in the absurd belief that “only I know best.” Unfortunately, with this we have remained difficult”.
the leader of the “center of the Consent” nil Ushakov said that the case of Sprogis became significant. “It is a signal to the current ruling elite to anyone who decided to encroach on its hegemony: “do Not go! We’re gonna break you”,” the said politician.
Ex-Minister of economy of Latvia Vyacheslav Dombrovsky, put forward “the Consent Center” in the Prime Ministers also believes that Sproģis was launched an organized campaign, and its victim was not only himself but also his family, who had the temerity to support the Bishop. “In this situation, Peteris acted like a decent person, first deciding to defend against the attacks of his family, — said Dombrowski. — We understand and respect his decision.” And the MP Janis Urbanovich, regretting the decision Sproģis added that he probably would have gone part of the Latvians, and in his new post he could change Latvia.
His regret about the extremely unsuccessful start of his political career Sproģis expressed his colleague, the pastor of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the rector of the Russian Lutheran community of the Epiphany in Riga Paul Levushkan. He believes that Bishop was fun and broke. “Here we have a society, — wrote to the pastor in his Facebook. — We have a little more tolerance and acceptance of other opinions. Well, the rift between the communities, the history has demonstrated very clearly”. Levushkan believes that Latvia needs a personality scale Martin Luther the king once they are able to overcome barriers of inter-ethnic hostility.
on the one hand, the reaction of the conservative part of the Latvian society is quite understandable. Reputable and well respected in the country, religious and public figure, a true Latvian, finally, suddenly enters into political Alliance with the “Russian” party, which has long and firmly sewn label Pro.
However, a local publicist Maris Krautmanis draws attention to the fact that in 2007, the same “Agreement” was put forward as a presidential candidate Aivars endziņ — Latvians in the country, the distinguished lawyer, former President of the constitutional court. Endziņ did not become President, but his nomination did not caused a tenth of the criticism that got Sprogis. Obviously, during this time, much has changed — at least for the last four years, the degree of anti-Russian rhetoric has increased markedly. Everything that is somehow connected with a Russian or a Russian, is perceived now not only as Pro-Kremlin. And everyone somehow can be suspected to be sympathetic to the Russian, becoming a “traitor” and “agent of the Kremlin.”
the Nomination of the Bishop was a bold step, but opinion Krautmanis, the American experts did not take into account those myths and nightmares, fear and hatred, which form the Latvian mentality. The Americans and could not imagine what a trap they are preparing Sprogis.
But if we look to the history of the Bishop closely, it becomes clear that this persecution is a sign of extreme disrespect for the Russian citizens of Latvia. They are the same as Latvians, pay taxes, and associate with this country its future. At the same time after time they are given to understand that they are “Pro-Kremlin fifth column” and nothing, except betrayal, they are not expecting. And if they say that the party for which they vote, will never enter into the government, people have no choice but to sit at home in front of the TV and make sure that Kremlin propaganda is not so wrong.