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MOSCOW, February 19 (Itar-Tass) —— The State Duma does not dramatize the refusal of the Latvian society to make Russian a second state language in Latvia but views the referendum, in which the idea gained support of 25% of citizens, as a message aimed at the rapprochement of the Baltic republics and Russia.
The referendum itself is “a breakthrough and a victory,” Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Slutsky (the Liberal Democratic Party) told Itar-Tass.
“The Latvian referendum results cannot be called a failure. On the contrary, the support of 25% of referendum participants [to the idea of Russian as a second state language], including 40% in Riga and 85% in the second largest Latvian city Daugavpils, means that Russians are not alien to Latvia,” he said.
“This is a real chance for strengthening the rights of Russians in Latvia and other Baltic republics,” he said. At the same time, the deputy said he regretted that Russian observers, among them representatives of the Russian Public Chamber, were not accredited to observe the Latvian referendum, and 320,000 non-citizens, most of whom speak Russian, were barred from the ballot.
Another parliamentarian, Dmitry Sablin (United Russia), supported the opinion. “The importance of this referendum lies not as much in digits as in the fact that problems of Russian-speaking Latvians have been finally brought to the national level,” he said. “The main result is the chance of Russian Latvians to be heard and to hold a civilized dialog on their rights, including the right to speak their native tongue,” he said.
“I am confident that the Latvian authorities will now be unable to ignore with impunity the rights of the significant population strata. The ballot results and the genuine interest of republican residents to the referendum could not pass unnoticed by Brussels,” he said.
The deputy did not rule out a regional language status of Russian. “This looks quite logical and probable in the solution of the problem of non-citizens, which is a Latvian disgrace and a factor, which has a negative influence on the relations with Russia,” Sablin said.
(to be continued)