Latvia on Thursday became among the first European countries to designate Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism" after nearby Lithuania was the first to do so back in May. Latvia’s Parliament made the declaration while alleging that Russian forces are targeting civilians in the ongoing Ukraine invasion, and urged other countries to implement their own formal designations.
Out of the 100-seat assembly, 67 lawmakers voted yes, with 16 abstaining. The formal designation charged Russia forces with enacting "Suffering and intimidation as tools in its attempts to demoralize the Ukrainian people and armed forces and paralyze the functioning of the state."
Latvia’s Parliament now "recognizes Russia’s violence against civilians in pursuit of political aims as terrorism, recognizes Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and calls on other like-minded countries to express the same view."
What's more is that Latvia has joined neighboring Estonia in halting all tourist visas issued to Russians. There are reports that Estonia too will soon pass its own Russian "state sponsor" terror designation.
The Baltic countries and former Soviet satellite states have been at the forefront of urging Western weapons shipments to Ukraine, and have even played host to arms in transit. Some European countries such as Finland are now trying to push an EU-wide ban on all Russian travel, which critics in Germany especially (which hosts a large Russian expat population) argue is unfair collective punishment of innocent civilians.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back, condemning the Latvian parliament vote as part of anti-Russian "xenophobia."
Moscow has vowed retaliation, with one Russian parliamentarian saying they would unleash "retaliatory measures that will show Latvia its place and will be quite painful."
Earlier in the now six-month Ukraine conflict, the Biden administration began using the word "genocide" when talking about alleged Russian atrocities (but more recently has stopped using the specific word), but has so far resisted some Congressional calls to label Russia a terror state sponsor.