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Latvia investigates Russian TV-in-exile claiming it aided Moscow’s troops

origin 1Co-owners of the Dozhd cable channel (TV Rain) attend a news conference at the channel’s Moscow office in February 2014 ©VASILY MAXIMOV / AFP

Statements made by independent Russian TV station Dozhd raised suspicions it was helping Moscow’s troops take part in the war in Ukraine and on Friday triggered an investigation by Latvia’s state security service.

Dozhd, or TV Rain, is broadcasting from Latvia and elsewhere after Russian authorities forced the closure of its Moscow studio on the grounds that it had deliberately spread false information about the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine.

The State Security Service said a moderator of a Dozhd news show on Thursday had expressed hope that the station had already helped provide many Russian soldiers with basic equipment and services.

It is not clear whether the statement meant that the broadcaster helped improve their conditions through their services or took an active part in the procurement of such equipment.

“The statements … raise suspicions about the TV channel providing assistance to soldiers of the Russian occupation forces,” read a press release.

“Considering the crimes committed by the Russian occupation forces against Ukraine and its people, any material or financial assistance to the aggressor country is illegal and may carry criminal liability for the financing of war and terrorism,” the statement said.

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Dozhd was also fined 10,000 euros on Friday for broadcasting a map showing Crimea, annexed by Moscow, as part of Russia, the national electronic media council said.

The broadcaster’s editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko issued a statement on social media denying that Dozhd was involved in any form of aid to Kremlin troops, saying he “has not, is not and will not help … the Russian military – on frontline or whatever.”

The presenter, Aleksei Korostelyov, was fired for the remarks, another TV host, Ekaterina Kotrikadze, announced after reading Dzaydko’s statement on the air and apologized to viewers on Friday.

Latvia, a small former Soviet republic with a sizable Russian-speaking minority, was among the invasion’s strongest critics.

The service said it had repeatedly warned policy makers about challenges “from Russia’s so-called independent media relocating their business to Latvia”, saying they pose intelligence risks.