By Patrick McLoughlin
RIGA - Latvia said on Friday Moscow's release of documents stating the United States and Britain gave tacit approval to Soviet occupation of the Baltics was an attempt to sour NATO relations ahead of next week's summit.
Russia's foreign intelligence service SVR this week released declassified files and said in a statement the West regarded the removal of pro-German influences from the Baltics and occupation by Soviet forces "a necessary and timely step".
Latvia on Friday attacked the timing of the release ahead of the Nov. 28-29 summit of NATO leaders.
The subject of the Soviet occupation of the Baltics, in 1940 and resumed again in 1944 after the Germans were driven out, is an emotionally-charged one in the region.
"First, this is an attempt to indirectly disrupt relations between our countries," Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks told Reuters. "Second, it looks like they are trying to find someone to share the guilt with, which would anyway fall on Russia."
Latvia will welcome 26 heads of state, including U.S. President George W. Bush, and 5,000 guests to its capital Riga for the first meeting of the alliance on ex-Soviet soil.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga hailed the summit as a chance to banish the last bitter memories of Soviet dominance.
Lithuania and Estonia had little response on Friday to the SVR statement. Officials in the two nations called it a matter for historians, not politicians.
However, former Lithuanian President and member of the European Parliament, Vytautas Landsbergis, said the move was a calculated one by Moscow.
"It is an attempt to discredit Russia's critics from the new EU and NATO member states, which suffered from the Soviet occupation," he said.
According to the statement, the declassified documents related to events in the Baltic in the pre-war years and during the "Great Patriotic War".
"The removal of pro-German regimes in the Baltics and the arrival of Soviet forces in the region in that military-political situation, when Europe was faced with the question "to be or not to be", was seen in Western democracies as unpleasant, but without doubt a necessary and timely step," the Russian statement said.
The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia achieved their independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, after decades of often brutal rule by Moscow.
"There was nothing the UK or the U.S. could have done to assist us against the occupation of our country," Latvia's Foreign Minister Pabriks said on Friday. (Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Moscow)