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Bomb Explodes Ouside of Russian Embassy in Latvia

By Carol J. Williams
Los Angeles Times
MOSCOW

A second bomb attack in four days by extremists in the Latvian capital, Riga, damaged property at the Russian Embassy on Monday and prompted Moscow to warn that "fascists are raising their heads" in the former Soviet republic.

As with Thursday's predawn explosion at Riga's synagogue, no injuries were inflicted in the Embassy blast, caused by plastic explosives detonated in a cement trash bin.

The attack was being linked with a rise in nationalist and extremist actions that have defaced monuments and unsettled relations among Latvians, Jews and Russians.

"Explosions rock Latvia, monuments are vandalized, fascists are raising their heads. This must be stopped," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in an official statement condemning the 2 a.m. bombing. "We demand that the Latvian authorities take drastic measures to punish those guilty."

In Riga, Latvian officials ordered intensified security around buildings that might be considered targets by nationalist extremists. Latvian President Gunter Ulmanis vowed that law enforcement officials will bring the tense situation in his republic under control and prevent any further "acts of terror."

Alexander Udaltsev, Russia's ambassador to Latvia, joined republic leaders in blaming the incident on those trying to drive a wedge between Russians and Latvians.

Those divisions already run deep because of Latvia's restrictive citizenship and language laws that make it difficult for Russians who settled in the republic during more than 40 years of Soviet occupation to secure jobs, residence permits and even international passports. At a March 3 rally to protest the precarious conditions for Russians living in Latvia, police used clubs to disperse the mostly elderly demonstrators, spurring bitter complaints of brutality from Moscow.

The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the bombing outside its Riga Embassy on "anti-Russian hysteria recently produced in Latvia and the encouragement of nationalism and extremism."

Almost 500 neo-Nazi collaborators marched through the Latvian capital last month, including several high-ranking government officials who were fired or reprimanded only after the synagogue bombing. Russian and Jewish monuments have also been defaced in recent weeks.

"Any manifestations of terrorism are utterly unacceptable," Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs warned after the blast outside the Russian Embassy that damaged four cars and parts of the building's facade. "The executors of this cynical and outrageous crime will be unable to destabilize the situation in the country and discredit the prestige of Latvia in the eyes of the international public."

But even before Monday's bombing, Jewish and human rights organizations had been pressing Riga officials to take more decisive action to prevent extremist expression and to extradite and prosecute Latvians accused of Nazi war crimes.