The events in Latvia's financial sector took another turn February 20 with Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis and Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola sharply criticizing the leadership of Norvik bank, reports. Meanwhile the Ministry of Defense waded into the controversy saying there was a "high probability" that a "large-scale information operation" was underway against Latvia which it likened to pre-election campaigns in the USA, France and Germany.

"What Norvik is doing at the moment is a provocation," Kučinskis told reporters. Reizniece-Ozola went even further, saying: "What occurred yesterday in the international sphere can be seen as an active smear campaign against Latvia. If there are suspicions of illegal activity they should be directed towards law enforcement institutions, not tuend into a publicity campaign." 

Their words came after a cabinet meeting Tuesday not long after central bank governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs also launched a full-scale assault on Norvik and its owner, Russian-born British citizen Grigory Guselnikov following a long-bubbling animosity. On February 19 the Associated Press published a sensational story in which Guselnikov and Norvik chairman Oliver Bramwell accused Rimšēvičs of attempted extortion - a claim denied by Rimšēvičs himself. The story, meanwhile, has gone global, splashing Latvia's name in connection with mafia-like activities and links to Russia around the internet and newspapers. It was this fact that provoked the ire of the government.

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