Latvia fines Russian TV channel €3.1 million over EU sanctions breach

Microphones (photo is illustrative).
Microphones (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

A Latvian court has fined the owner of a company which broadcasts Russian television channels in Estonia and the other two Baltic States over €3 million for non-compliance with sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union, news portal Baltic News Network (BNN) reports.

At the end of January this year, the Riga District Court fined LLC Baltic Media Alliance (BMA) co-owner Oleg Solodov and BMA Estonia branch director Margus Merima €3.1 million for breaching sanctions imposed by the EU.

Solodov and Merima themselves have been fined €25,000 each, while the authorities seized property worth more than €3 million in the course of the investigation, BNN reports.

Two legal persons lined to BMA had signed a contract and provided financing to an individual blacklisted by the EU's sanctions on Russia, BNN reports, adding that the individual in question is co-owner and board chair at Rossiya Bank, Yuri Kovalchuk.

Kovalchuk is reportedly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been on the sanctions list since 2014.

Since Kovalchuk is a beneficial owner of several Russian tv programs banned for broadcast in Latvia in 2019, he has breached the sanctions order, acquiring more than EUR 10 million in the process, BNN reports.

BMA's subsidiaries broadcast First Baltic Channel+ (PBK+) and other television channels in the Baltic States.

The conviction follows several searches in Riga and Tallinn by the Latvian Security Police, the VDD, last Friday, in close cooperation with the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), during which time a large volume of documents and data storage devices were seized.

Registered in May 2007, BMA's owners are Solodov and Russian citizen Aleksei Plyasunov.

While BMA's 2019 turnover stood at €13,421,988 and its profit at €1,315,930, in 2020 the respective figures were €586,695 and €73,608 – 2021's figures are not available yet, BNN reports.

The ruling can be appealed at the Riga Regional Court; the prosecutor has expressed satisfaction with the verdict, BNN says.

The original BNN article is here.

Similar raids on BMA have taken place in recent years, while Tallinn TV, a news channel which despite its name broadcast nationwide, took on broadcasts of Russian-language channel Pervõi Baltiiski (PBK) for a few weeks, early on in the Covid pandemic.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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