MOSCOW, February 20 (Itar-Tass) — On Monday Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said that Moscow’s statements concerning the Saturday referendum on the status of Russian as a second official language were considered to be an “interference in the internal affairs” of the republic.
“The Foreign Ministry comments on issues that are within the competence of Latvia,” the top diplomat said in an interview with Echo of Moscow radio station. “I don’t believe it is a good practice. We can call this interference in internal affairs,” he stressed.
He emphasized that one must not hurry in the settlement of the Russian language status issue. “We must discuss that in a calmer atmosphere, we need calm work,” Rinkevics said.
According to the Latvian Central Election Commission, 24.88 percent of 71.12 percent of the citizens taking part in the referendum, voted in favor of granting Russian the status of a second official language in the republic, and another 74.8 percent rejected Russian as an official language.
Commenting on the voting, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said “The referendum results do not fully reflect opinions of local residents. The reason is that 319,000 ‘non-citizens’ were denied the right to express their opinion although many of them were born in Latvia or lived there for a long time,” he said.
“Moscow is perplexed with the denial of the observer status to the Russian Public Chamber delegation by recommendation of the Latvian Foreign Ministry. We demanded explanations from the Latvian authorities. We think that Riga ignored its international commitments,” he said.
According to statistical data, over two million people live in Latvia, and the Russian-speaking population accounts for about 40 percent.