Russian is spoken at home by about 37% of the Latvian population, predominantly on the south-east part of the country, near the border with Russia and Belarus, as well as by those Russians that resided in Latvia after the fall of the USSR.

Russian state-sponsored disinformation is addressed mainly to Russian-speaking population in Latvia.  Furthermore, Latvia’s Russian-speaking population has strong ‘pro-Kremlin’ links.  Russia exerts its expertise on information warfare.  Websites, social media and news sources have been supported by the Russian state to develop its regional expansion through non-military means.  For example, “Diena”, one of the largest newspapers and news outlets in the country, serves as a channel to instill President Putin’s influence on the Latvian news landscape.

Fear is perhaps the feeling that Russia wishes to imprint within its target audience:  Failure of the state to provide basic services to its citizens, inability of the Baltic countries to defend themselves, and the refusal of NATO allies to assist the Baltic countries in the case of a foreign invasion all belong to the key messages conveyed to the Latvian population.

The war in Ukraine  has highlighted and accelerated the ongoing internal fragmentation among Latvian Russian speakers. While Latvian Russians and Russian speakers actively supporting Ukraine have been visible in the public space since the first days of the war, a  number of pro-Putin, Russia-supporting individuals have been active at the margins. However, according to a recent opinion poll, 93% of ethnic Latvians support Ukraine’s fight for “independence and freedom,” while among Latvian Russians that number is 63%. The October 2022 parliamentary elections brought a complete defeat of Latvia’s largest Russian speakers’ party Harmony. While part of its electorate might have been unhappy with Harmony’s strong stand against the war and thus turned to a new populist party with an ambiguous attitude toward the Russian invasion of Ukraine, young Russian speakers seem to have cast their votes for Progressives—a left-wing green party that has been active in its support to Ukraine and condemnation of Russia’s war. These internal fragmentations would make any potential attempts of the Russian Federation to instrumentalize Latvia’s Russian-speaking population a much harder task.

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