Latvia bans Russian pop stars for pro-Kremlin stance
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics speaks during a press conference on June 17, 2014 in Tallinn, Estonia - by Raigo Pajula
"The most active propagandists -- there's no other way to describe them -- will be denied entry to Latvia," Edgars Rinkevics told public broadcaster Latvian Radio in the former Soviet republic.
The black-listed pop stars "aggressively" support Russia's March annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Rinkevics said.
A foreign ministry statement confirmed the names of the three individuals as Oleg Gazmanov, Iosif Kobzon and Alla Perfilova, better known as Valeriya.
"Of course, people can say whatever they like, but I want to give a clear signal that people who spread such views are not welcome in a European Union member," Rinkevics said.
"There is no enclave in the European Union where these people can continue their propaganda."
Anhelita Kamenska of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights questioned why the three were being "singled out" when other performers were not.
For instance, conductor Valery Gergiev, known to be an enthusiastic supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, performed at the Latvian National Opera on July 17, Kamenska said.
"If you look at the Russian cultural elite, many of them express support for Putin and his policies," she added.
The three blacklisted pop stars were due to perform at the New Wave contest, an annual Eurovision-like televised event in Latvia's glitzy Jurmala seaside resort which draws crowds and competitors from across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Ultra-wealthy Russian oligarchs are high-profile attendees, and the arrival of their mega-yachts and private jets is a staple for gossip columns in both Latvia and Russia.
However, despite its popularity and the considerable boost it gives the local economy, many Latvians complain that it sparks memories of the occupation era when Jurmala was a playground for the Soviet elite.
A Baltic republic of two million, Latvia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, before joining the EU and NATO in 2004. Around a quarter of its population is ethnic Russian.