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RIGA, January 10 (Itar-Tass) — Many politicians from the Center of Accord which represents the rights of Russian-speaking residents of Latvia intend to vote at the February 18 plebiscite for the amendments to give official status to the Russian language, the Center's press service told Itar-Tass on Monday.
A number of lawmakers, officials, and self-rule functionaries are expected to support official status for the Russian language, as members of the Center of Accord. "In the Zilupe area, Russian is the native tongue for 95 percent of residents. It is logical that it should not have the status of a foreign language. The Center of Accord offered its solution - a bill envisioning the status of ethnic minority's language for Russian, but the coalition did not support it, chairman of the Zilupe legislature Oleg Agafonov said earlier.
The first Russian mayor of Riga Nil Ushakov, the Center of Accord leader, had stated his intention to vote for giving the status of the second official language to Russian in Latvia.
The action "For Native Language», whose objective is to win official status for Russian, started in Latvia on March 7. The organizers had to collect signatures of one-tenth of Latvia’s voters /154,379/. As many as 187,378 citizens supported the bid, which makes up over 12 percent of all residents with the right of vote.
Earlier, the Latvian parliament refused to give official status to the Russian language. However, regardless of this decision, the issue must be put for referendum, as the bill envisions amendments in the Constitution. To make Russian the second official language, the initiative must be supported by at least half of all voters, i.e. more than 770,000.
Latvian President Andris Berzins stated his objection to the project, saying he was ready to step down if the bid succeeded.
Metropolitan of Riga and All Latvia Alexander called for preserving the Russian language and culture in this Baltic republic. The Russian language in Latvia should be significant for the public, he said in an interview to the local news agency LETA.
All national monitories should always keep their native language and culture. The Russian language in Latvia has already become part of national culture and tradition. Therefore, residents of this Baltic republic must seek mutual understanding and a common language. "If you are asked in Russian, answer in Russia, and if in Latvian, answer in Latvian. It is important that our society does not split more, and instead of putting more distance between each other, we have to come closer. Life is too difficult as it is; it will not become easier. Nobody else needs us, we have to realize that Latvia is our common home, where the one and the other have to look for the golden mean to coexist. We have to strengthen unity, understanding and respect between the peoples. Political games are inadmissible with respect to the language issue," he underlined.
The Center of Accord, the largest Opposition association, which represents the interests of the Russian-speaking population of Latvia, urged all the citizens to take part in the nationwide referendum in support of the Russian language.