Life across the Russian border: Young Latvians face an uncertain future

In Latvia, the war in Ukraine has rekindled fears of being attacked by Moscow's forces. The youngest citizens of this little-known Baltic country, which shares a nearly 300km-long border with Russia, now fear becoming a collateral victim of Moscow's war.

"To be honest, I wasn't thinking about all this. And I keep telling myself that I won't be drawn." Janis is 24, lives in Riga, Latvia’s capital, and like all young Latvian men aged between 18 and 27, he can now be drafted for the mandatory 11-month military service.

The Latvian government reintroduced compulsory military service in July 2023 amid fears of invasion by neighbouring Russia. The first two waves of recruits were made up of volunteers, but since the end of January 2024, selection has been by lottery.

600 euros a month for volunteers

"If I have to enlist for 11 months, I'll probably have to leave my flat because I won't be able to afford the rent," worries Janis. Although there are a few end-of-service bonuses, recruits only receive 600 euros a month if they volunteer and half that if they are randomly drawn.

Since February 2022, Latvia has been suffering the indirect consequences of a war that is taking place several hundred kilometres away. "It's created a lot of stress. We talk about it all the time, with this feeling that we can no longer predict anything," says the young Latvian.

More than a third of the population is Russian-speaking

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