A pro-Kremlin talk show portrays Latvia as a socioeconomically devastated country whose elite has taken wrong geopolitical decisions.
Event: On 22 November, the Russian state-owned channel NTV broadcast a talk show, Mesto Vstrechi, that focused on relations between the Baltic states and Russia. The show’s participants were particularly concerned with Latvia.
Guzenkova’s statement about begging as a new profession in Latvia was based on anecdotal experience presented as fact. No such profession exists in Latvia, and Guzenkova generalized her observations in order to create a misleading image of extreme poverty. She overlooked the fact that,Latvia is wealthier than Russia on a per-capita basis. Instead, she tried to undermine Latvia’s GDP growth by arguing that in small economies, such growth doesn’t count. Linter’s claim about unemployment in Latvia and Estonia is also incorrect. Official data suggests that in the third quarter of 2016, unemployment was 9.5 percent in Latvia and 7.5 percent in Estonia—both close to the EU’s average jobless rate of 8.6 percent. That means unemployment is hardly the main factor forcing Latvians and Estonians to emigrate, as Linter suggests. In fact, the higher salaries offered by other EU countries is mainly what lures people in both countries to emigrate.
Korotchenko’s claim that the Latvian President has admitted that “Latvia has no economy” is incorrect alike, as the president has not ever said that. He also misinformed everyone by claiming that a half of Latvian workforce has emigrated to the EU. It is estimated that around 9 per cent of Latvians have emigrated since the 2000, which is far less than Korotchenko claimed. Korotchenko’s statement about the unit of 20 volunteers who would allegedly protect the Latvian Ministry of Defense is also a mere imagination without any factual basis; it was obviously expressed, in order to mock Latvia’s defense capability against Russia. Conversely, Isaev’s claim that the only industry of Latvia’s is cargo services is incorrect and is used in this misleading way to emphasize Latvia’s dependence on the Russian transit. In fact, the major economic realms of Latvia in terms of GDP are agriculture and forestry, manufacturing, and trade and accommodation. Finally, Isaev’s statement about the president Bush who reportedly commanded Latvia to act against Russia is a conspiracy theory whereby the US is framed as the main reason why Latvia does not have good relations with Russia.
Audience: Russian-speaking community in Latvia
Analysis: In recent weeks, the most influential pro-Kremlin media outlets have tried to undermine the economic success of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by framing them as failed states that will not survive in the long term. In particular, such outlets have used anecdotal stories and false facts to portray Latvia as a socioeconomical failure. This devastation, pro-Kremlin media argue, is a result of wrong geopolitical decisions taken by Latvia’s Russophobic elite. Remarkably, the U.S. presidential s disinformation stream has been reinforced after the US presidential elections which has increased a noticeable anxiety in Latvian society.