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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Riga Trial Sours Tense Relations

The Foreign Ministry on Friday denounced the jailing in Latvia of a former Stalinist official convicted of genocide for deporting 31 Latvian families to Siberia in 1941.

Mikhail Farbtukh, 83, began serving a five-year prison sentence Wednesday after a Latvian court rejected his appeal.

"On May 17, the Latvian police dragged a helpless 83-year-old man from his home and took him to prison on a litter to serve a five-year term for what is described as genocide against the Latvian nation," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It said the jailing of Farbtukh amounted to "legal arbitrariness with the taint of Nazism."

Farbtukh was an Interior Ministry official and worked in the NKVD, which preceded the KGB, in eastern Latvia after Soviet occupation in June 1940. Last September, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the deportation of Latvian families. An appeals court reduced his sentence to five years.

Russia has vehemently protested the trials, saying Latvian courts haven't shown similar zeal in prosecuting alleged Nazi criminals.

Meanwhile, a car was soaked in gasoline and torched outside the Latvian Embassy in Moscow early Friday, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

An group called the Non-Citizens of the Baltic Coast claimed responsibility and demanded Farbtukh's release. No casualties or damages were reported.

A bizarre side of the nation's attitude toward the Baltic state was on display Thursday night when an ORT television journalist took the Latvian prime minister to task over perceived insults in last weekend's Eurovision song contest and the world ice hockey competition.

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzinsh spent much of the interview fending off questions about why his country's jurors had given no points to Russian singer Alsou.

"I really liked her, I would have given her first place," Berzinsh told the interviewer. Alsou came second, just ahead of the Latvian entry.

Berzinsh was also asked about plans to give cash prizes to Latvia's players after they beat the Russian team in the world ice hockey championships.