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Russian President Vladimir Putin has long used the ‘Russian-speaking’ populations of former Soviet republics as a way of influencing the politics of these regions. Efforts in the Baltic states to ‘de-Russify’ their education systems and marginalize Russian-speaking citizens continue to anger the Kremlin. Yesterday, Putin blasted the EU to pay more attention to ‘human rights abuses’ against Russian-speakers in the Baltics.
“We are in dialogue with our partners in the EU, and I hope they will be eventually ashamed that they allow such major violations of the rights of people who live in the territory of the EU, while talking about human rights violations outside the EU,” Putin said according to Interfax during a questions and answers session when asked to take measures in connection with encroachments on the rights of Russians living in Latvia, reported The Baltic Times.
“It is a situation where they worry about a speck in their friend’s eye when they have a log in their own. However, we will continue persistent work on that track, but in a such a way as not to hurt those who are in these territories, who live in these countries.”
He said that Russia is constantly pointing out to the governments of the Baltic states, including Latvia, that the rights of Russians living there are being violated. “It is hard to imagine that thousands of people can be declared non-citizens in modern civilized society. There is no such category, international law does not envisage such a category,” Putin said.
There are citizens, people with double citizenship, and stateless persons, “but there has never been such a concept as non-citizens,” Interfax quoted Putin as saying. “It was invented in the Baltic states. It was invented to limit the lawful rights of the people who live in those territories,” wrote The Baltic Times, quoting Putin.
The methods that Russia should use to protect its fellow countrymen “should be such as not to aggravate their situation,” he declared.
Latvia has passed a law that all secondary school education in the country will soon be taught only in Latvian. Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis said the language reform would improve equal opportunities for all citizens. “It will make society more cohesive and the state stronger,” he said, reported the BBC. Around 300,000 Russian-speakers, or 13% of Latvia’s population, are so-called “non-citizens”. Fluency in Latvian is among the requirements for Latvian citizenship.
Member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, have called for economic sanctions against Latvia and other countries that restrict Russian education. During Soviet times, the Kremlin required all Soviet citizens to learn in Russian.