The Baltic Dead End


The Latvian Railroads

August 14, 2015

Pavel Shipilin

Translated by Kristina Rus

In Riga the Chairman of the Board of “Latvian Railways” Ugis Magonis was arrested and removed from office for a bribe of half a million euros. Possibly this iconic detention is related to the rumors that Russia decided to stop the transit of goods through Latvia for a couple months, citing poor quality of railroads.

Ugis Magonis

Ugis Magonis was one of the main lobbyists of pragmatic relations with Russia. That is – mutually beneficial. For which he has suffered. 

“We cannot ignore that the geographical location of Latvia does not allow our rail industry to significantly diversify directions and the types of business, because we are bound by rails with Russia, Belarus, Lithuania and Estonia. Therefore, even attracting Asian goods, we have to reckon with the fact that they will get to us only through one of these countries. Without Russia there will be no goods from Kazakhstan and China and back. Therefore, it is essential for us to maintain good relations with neighbors,” – said Ugis Magonis a few weeks before his arrest.

How much secret wisdom is hidden in this simple logical formula!

Today three-quarters of freight transported by Latvian rail is going to Russia or from Russia. If it disappears, the transportation industry will cease to exist [don’t forget about the ports! – ed.].

A couple of days ago there were rumors that Russia stopped the transit of coal through Ventspils port. “I think that it may be related to the detention of Ugis Magonis, but it is only a hypothesis — said live on radio Baltkom the Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma. — These are my personal guesses. Latvian Embassy in Moscow is now in contact with the responsible agencies of Russia. Official sources in Russia refuted the information that the transit of coal may be terminated. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgar Rinkevich told me that there is no official information from Russia yet.”

The lady is clearly trying to appear naive.

I think Laimdota Straujuma just now realized how dependent on Russia is her small independent nation, situated on the outskirts of the European Union. The sovereignty of which rests on a few hundred tons of Russian coal. The whole government is ready to march to repair the rails, just so the dirty-black freight cars can move in the right direction. To go where the Kremlin will send them.

But it is difficult. Because it is still unclear, where to go. “Where exactly are the damaged rails, Russia did not specify,” complains Aivar Strakshas, who succeeded the arrested chief railway man, Ugis Magonis.

If he only knew, then, of course, he would be waving a hammer, fixing the rails somewhere near Smolensk.

But the problem, of course, is not in the damaged rails. But that our Baltic tigers still remain in the Russian sphere of influence. Just because the width between their rails is 1520 mm. And the European standard is — 1435.85 mm, the difference is about the length of your index finger. That’s how much stands before the full independence.

Ugis Magonis defiantly put spokes in the wheels of progress and did not allow to narrow the rails. For in this case the cargo from Russia will never come to Latvia, and there will be simply nothing to earn. And the country will finally turn unto a European dead end, completely dependent on handouts from Brussels.

Such a person, of course, belongs behind bars. Does he think he is smarter then the rest?



Many people ask whether the bribe did happen. I do not know. But if we follow one of the links, you can read what the successor of Ugis Magonis thinks about it.

Aivar Strakshas noted that Magonis did not make the decision to purchase locomotives on his own. According to him, the audit did not reveal any violations of the LDZ (Latvijas dzelzceļš (Latvian railway)). “Such decisions are always made by LDZ. The Ministry of Transport has confirmed that the purchase is legitimate, without violations and LDZ has no doubt about its necessity,” – said Strakshas.

However, he noted that when deciding about the purchase the final word was left to Ugis Magonis. “This purchase was advantageous. It was decided through a tender. Ugis Magonis had the last word in the decision. The purchase of locomotives was evaluated by a committee of ten people, composed of economists, financiers, technical workers,” – said Strakshas.

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