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Latvia says Russia should be labeled state sponsor of terror

The EU should designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said, after an attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war on Friday renewed calls to further isolate Moscow on the international stage. 

“We see all the brutality of Russian forces, that actually resemble a lot of ISIS, who we have been always calling a terrorist organization,” Rinkēvičs told POLITICO in a phone interview on Sunday. “Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said.

Ukraine’s military has accused Russia of deliberately shelling a jail containing Ukrainian POWs in the eastern Donetsk region, while Russia’s Defense Ministry has accused Ukraine of striking the prison. On Sunday, Russia said it formally invited the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate. 

Rinkēvičs said that Europe should double down on efforts to isolate Russia.

“The only way to move forward is to strengthen the current strategy, which is support to Ukraine, send more military aid,” he said.

The minister also called for the confiscation of Russian government assets and for EU countries to restrict issuing visas for Russians, with an exemption for humanitarian reasons.

“Society needs to feel it,” Rinkēvičs said, arguing that the majority of Russians support the Kremlin’s policies. “If we condemn countries like Iran,” Rinkēvičs said, “Russia is not different.” 

Ukraine’s government has asked its Western partners to designate Russia as a “terrorist state.”

“Our state received many signals from different countries condemning the Russian terrorist act in Olenivka,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message posted late Saturday.  

Zelenskyy, who is urging civilians to leave the Donbas area, said that the “world sees the truth” and “there must be legal steps on the part of the world community against the terrorist state.” 

“Formal legal recognition of Russia as a terrorist state, in particular, recognition by the U.S. Department of State,” he said, “is needed not as a political gesture but as an effective defense of the free world.”

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