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Country Reports
LATVIA, Landmine Monitor Report 2002



The Republic of Latvia has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty. On 31 January 2002, Latvia reported, “Today, although having not yet signed the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention, the Government of Latvia is fully aware of the global humanitarian problem caused by the anti-personnel landmines (APM), it does meet the requirements of the Convention and it welcomes the efforts of the international community to stop the use of this weapon and, eventually, to eliminate all planted and stockpiled APMs. Concerning the issue of APLs, the regional context is very important to Latvia. The actual position of Latvia over this issue is highly determined by positions of its neighboring countries.”[1]

On 28 March 2002, the Baltic International Center of Human Education wrote to the Minister of Defense encouraging Latvia to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty as soon as it joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[2] On 26 April 2002, the Baltic Center received the following response:

The Ministry of Defense in general supports human goals of the Ottawa Convention. At this moment most suitable alternatives to antipersonnel mines are searched and analyzed (e.g. antitank mines, controllable mines, antitank missiles, mines of the distance mining systems, etc.) in order to secure self-defense of the country.

When analyzing the readiness of Latvia to join the Convention, external aspect also should be taken into consideration. At this moment, several neighboring countries also have not joined the Convention, Russia among them with its large stockpile of anti-personnel mines, Belarus, Estonia and Finland. Acceding to the Convention (ratification) should be done in coordination with our neighboring countries in the same geopolitical situation. Finland will consider its eventual joining the Convention in 2006 (and ratifying in 2010) has calculated that replacement of antipersonnel mines with alternative types of arms will require significant financial investments.

As the gesture of a goodwill of Latvia in support of human ideas I would like to mention the decision to ratify the Protocol II of the CCW... I would like to emphasize that the Ministry of Defense continues to analyze military-strategic and political aspects and also follows the international developments. Joining the Ottawa Convention could be reconsidered after the NATO summit in Prague in November this year.[3]

In February 2002, Lieutenant-Colonel Guntis Aizporietis, Chief of the Engineering Branch of the Latvian National Armed Forces, told Landmine Monitor that there would have to be a “thorough investigation” of the consequences of Latvia’s joining the Mine Ban Treaty, with the involvement of foreign and defense ministry representatives and also NGOs and economic institutions involved.[4] He subsequently informed Landmine Monitor in May that a study has been initiated of the implications for national defense of adherence.[5]

Latvia did not attend the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2001 in Managua, Nicaragua. However, Latvia associated itself with the statement delivered by Belgium on behalf of the European Union, which called for “worldwide application of the Convention.” Latvia did not attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in January 2002 or May 2002.

On 29 November 2001, Latvia voted in favor of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 56/24M, calling for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty. Latvia has supported similar resolutions in previous years.

In December 2001, Latvia participated, as an observer, in the Third Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), and also attended the Second CCW Review Conference. On 20 June 2002, Latvia’s Parliament ratified Amended Protocol II,[6] but Latvia has not yet formally consented to be bound by the protocol. Latvia is a State Party to the CCW and its original Protocol II on landmines.

On 20-21 February 2002, a Canadian delegation visited Latvia to discuss with Colonel Raimonds Graube, Commander, National Armed Forces, possible accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. The Landmine Monitor researcher was invited to participate at an informal session of the meeting.[7]


Latvia has often stated that it has never produced antipersonnel mines, and export has been prohibited since 1995 by several different regulations and laws.[8] New legislation on weapons was adopted by Parliament in June 2002. Article 7 of the Law on the Circulation of Arms prohibits the movement of weapons, in accordance with international treaties and conventions binding on Latvia, except for their movement for destruction. It also prohibits the export and transit of antipersonnel mines. The law does not contain penal sanctions for violations.[9]

Latvia inherited a small stockpile of Soviet antipersonnel mines.[10] The Ministry of Defense has told Parliament that it would take two to three months to destroy the stockpile.[11]

No new use of mines in Latvia has been reported, but criminal use of explosives continues, albeit at a reduced rate.[12] According to the Latvian State Police, “There were 16 cases in Latvia in 2001 when explosives were applied to commit crimes, which led to 10 explosions, among those eight were in Riga. There is a clear tendency to replace explosions by other types of criminal action.”[13]


Latvia states that it “maintains no active mine fields at the borders or elsewhere,” but acknowledges that there are still “some 100,000 hectares of land (one billion square meters) contaminated during World War II and post-war Soviet operations with mines and other types of ammunition. Latvian Armed Forces detect and destroy about 3,000 pieces of this ordnance every year.”[14]

A newspaper report in November 2001 reviewed the mine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination in Latvia. Some 3,000-5,000 items of explosive ordnance are destroyed each year, mostly in the rural areas most affected during the war (e.g. Blidene, Kursisi, Pampali, Zirni, and Zvarde). In 2001, in Saldus district, 692 explosive items were collected and destroyed; these included German and Russian shells from World War II, and Soviet shells found in the ex-Soviet aviation target site in Zvarde. Explosives and an incendiary bomb were found during construction work in Saldus, and three Russian shells and one German shell were found in the yard of the Saldus local newspaper.[15]

On 28 June 2001, a scrap metal shipment received at the premises of the Liepajas Metalurgs steel producer was found to contain 51 artillery shells, antivehicle mines and deep penetration bombs. Specialists from the 44th Homeguard Battalion were called in and they removed the explosives and destroyed them at the former military site at Barta in Liepajas district.[16]

On 28 August 2001, Leopolds Ozolins, a former member of parliament, found seven antipersonnel mines and an aerial bomb while swimming in the Salaca river. Local units of the armed forces removed and destroyed them.[17] On 8 December 2001, the discovery was reported of one ton of explosives from World War I and II in forests in Ogre district, close to the Kegums-Sigulda road.[18]

Despite the contamination, there have been no reports of casualties resulting from mines/UXO in 2001 or 2002.


The joint Norwegian-Latvian project for an Explosive Ordnance Training Center has progressed, with building construction having started in 2001. The center is now due to open in 2005,[19] a year later than was originally envisaged.[20]

The Latvian Ministry of Defense claimed that following the pre-mission training of an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit in Norway in 2000-2001, it was planned to deploy Latvian EOD and demining specialists to Kosovo in July 2002.[21]


[1] Report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 31 January 2002, pp. 1-2.
[2] It is expected that Latvia, together with a number of other Eastern European States, will be admitted to NATO in November 2002.
[3] Letter from Janis Sarts, Deputy Secretary of State, Latvian Ministry of Defense, Riga, 26 April 2002.
[4] Interview with Lt.-Col. Guntis Aizporietis, Chief of Engineering Branch J3, Latvian National Armed Forces Headquarters, Riga, 7 February 2002.
[5] Email from Lt.-Col. Guntis Aizporietis, Chief of Engineering Branch J3, Latvian National Armed Forces Headquarters, Riga, 24 May 2002.
[6] Information provided by Gunta Iljuconoka, Attaché, Security Policy Department, Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Riga, 10 July 2002.
[7] Interview with Edgars Svarenieks, Head of Section, Multilateral Relations and International Organisations, Ministry of Defence, Riga, 28 March 2002, and with representatives of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Riga, 21 February 2002.
[8] Report to the OSCE, 31 January 2002, p. 3; see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 892, and Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 830.
[9] “Ieroču Aprites Likums” (Law on the Circulation of Arms), adopted on 6 June 2002, and officially announced on 26 June 2002.
[10] Officials have previously indicated a figure around 4,500, although the number may be lower now. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 830.
[11] Interview with Lt.-Col. Aizporietis, Latvian National Armed Forces 7 February 2002.
[12] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 893.
[13] Information provided by Iveta Gruberte, Press Center of the Latvian State Police, Riga, 8 July 2002.
[14] Report to the OSCE, 31 January 2002, p. 3.
[15] “Neticami Piesarnota Zeme” (“Incredibly Contaminated Land”), Diena (Latvian daily newspaper), 3 November 2001.
[16] Ita Cermane, “Spridzekli Apdraud Liepajas Metalurgu” (“Explosives Are Endangering Liepajas Metalurgs”), Neatkariga Rita Avize (daily newspaper), 12 July 2001.
[17] Kaspars Funts, “Deputats Leopolds Ozolins Salacas Upe Atrod Kara Laika Spridzeklus” (“Leopolds Ozolins, Member of Parliament, Finds War-Era Explosives in the River Salaca), Vakara Zinas (evening newspaper), 26 August 2001.
[18] Edgars Galzons, “Kriminalas Vestis” (“Criminal News”), Diena, 8 December 2001.
[19] Interview with Lt.-Col. Aizporietis, Latvian National Armed Forces, 7 February 2002, and subsequent clarification by email, 24 May 2002.
[20] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 893.
[21] Interview with Lt.-Col. Aizporietis, Latvian National Armed Forces, 7 February 2002.