Latvia probes into exiled Russian TV over claims it helped Moscow troops

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By Aleksandar Brezar  with AFP, Reuters
Co-owners of cable channel Dozhd (TV Rain) attend a press conference at the channel office in Moscow in February 2014
Co-owners of cable channel Dozhd (TV Rain) attend a press conference at the channel office in Moscow in February 2014   -   Copyright  VASILY MAXIMOV / AFP

Statements made by the independent Russian TV station Dozhd raised suspicions it was helping Moscow troops taking part in the Ukraine war and triggered a probe by Latvia's state security service on Friday.

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

The state security service said that on Thursday, a moderator on a Dozhd news broadcast had expressed hope the station had already helped provide many Russian soldiers with basic equipment and amenities.

It is unclear whether the statement meant the TV station helped improve their conditions through their reporting or if it took an active part in procuring said equipment.

"The statements ... raise suspicion about the TV channel providing assistance to the soldiers of Russia's occupying forces," it said in a news 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 involve criminal liability for financing war and terrorism," the statement said.

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

The TV station's editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko has released a statement on social media denying that Dozhd was involved in any form of aid to Kremlin's troops, saying it "has not, is not and will not ... help the Russian army -- on the frontlines or otherwise".

The presenter, Aleksei Korostelyov, has been fired over the remarks, another TV host, Ekaterina Kotrikadze, announced while reading Dzyadko's statement on air and apologising to the viewers on behalf of its editorial board on Friday.

Latvia, a small former Soviet republic with a sizeable Russian-speaking minority, has been among the strongest critics of the invasion.

The service said it had repeatedly warned policymakers about the challenges "emanating from Russia's so-called independent media relocating their activity to Latvia", saying they posed intelligence risks.