Russia Sees no Positive Changes in Regard to Russian Citizens' Rights in Latvia.

Russia has not noticed any serious positive changes in regard to Russian-speaking population's rights in Latvia, Russian ambassador to Riga Igor Studennikov told journalists.

In his words, "the situation our compatriots are in was the main problem in Russo-Latvian relations in the outgoing year." "Our concerns did not find understanding with Latvian authorities. This darkens our relations. Moreover, in 2003 Latvia made a number of steps that even aggravated the situation on the interstate level," the Russian ambassador recalled. The talk is in particular about the ceremony near the monument to former Nazi SS legionaries in Lesten.

The glorification of former SS legionaries, Igor Studennikov noted, is taking place against the background of criminal persecution of veterans of the anti-Hitler coalition, veterans of Soviet law enforcement bodies.

"The same indignation of the Russian public was caused by the reaction of Latvian authorities, that is, absence of any reaction of official Riga to the petition against the education reform, under which 107,000 signatures were collected," he said.

"Latvian officials' threats to check how grounded was the missing of classes by fourth grade students who were visiting the Russian president did not in any way contribute to the improvement of the political atmosphere between our countries either. Such threats were directed against schoolchildren from "the Strasbourg group", who tried to attract the Council of Europe's attention to their problems, too," said the Russian ambassador to Latvia.

"We do not demand anything out of line with European standards, we just want the Russian-speaking population of Latvia to enjoy the same rights as, for example, Hungarians have in Slovakia and Albanians in Macedonia, as ethnic Germans have in South Tirol (Italy)," Studennikov emphasized.

[Source: Russian Information Agency (Novosti), Moscow, 31Dec03]

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