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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvia Holds Genocide Suspect

RIGA, Latvia -- Latvian authorities have arrested a Russian national on suspicion of genocide stemming from deportations nearly half a century ago, the Baltic News Service reported Thursday.

Ilya Mashonkin was arrested Wednesday, the agency said, quoting officials from the Prosecutor General's Office.

According to BNS, the prosecutor's office has evidence that Mashonkin participated in the 1949 deportation of about 100 ethnic Latvian families. Many of the people reportedly died in exile.

Mashonkin held a "senior post" in an unspecified Soviet security agency at the time, BNS said.

The arrest came amid a sharp escalation of tensions between ethnic Latvians and the country's large ethnic Russian minority. The tensions have brought a rain of near-daily denunciations of Latvia from the Russian government.

The escalation began when baton-wielding police broke up a demonstration of elderly Russian pensioners in Riga two weeks ago, a move that prompted Russia to threaten a trade embargo.

The Kremlin also has lashed out at Latvia for allowing members of an SS brigade to hold a demonstration Monday commemorating the 55th anniversary of the unit's founding. Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, then was under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1944.