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Riga mayor defiant amid calls not to use Russian in social networks

February 17, 16:32 UTC+3 RIGA
Latvia’s State Language Center has asked Nils Ushakovs earlier this week to explain why the Riga City Council uses the Russian language on its official Facebook page
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Mayor of Latvia’s capital Riga Nils Usakovs

Mayor of Latvia’s capital Riga Nils Usakovs

© Alexander Ryumin/TASS

RIGA, February 17. /TASS/. Mayor of Latvia’s capital Riga Nils Usakovs told a local radio station on Wednesday the city council will continue providing citizens with information in the Russian language in social networks.

Usakovs, the first ethnic Russian to be elected mayor of Riga in 2009, said the city council uses both the Latvian and Russian languages in social networks "so that every citizen of Riga has an opportunity to know everything what happens in the city."

"If they have a question, we want to give an answer that they will understand. First, this is our principal position. We are not going to change anything," Usakovs told the Baltcom radio station.

Second, Latvia’s legislation does not regulate "our possibilities to communicate or not to communicate in any language in addition to the Latvian language in social networks," he said.

Latvia’s State Language Center has asked Ushakovs earlier this week to explain why the Riga City Council uses the Russian language on its official Facebook page.

The Baltic nation of Latvia is home to almost 2 million people, with Russians accounting for around 40% of the country’s population. Latvian is the only official language in the country, while Russian is considered as a foreign language.

In February 2012, human rights activists organized a nationwide referendum on granting Russian a status of the second official language in Latvia. However, most citizens did not support the initiative.

Last year, Latvia’s State Language Center launched checks against Usakovs who spoke Russian during the celebrations on May 9 near a monument to the Soviet liberators in Riga. The center decided against imposing a fine on the mayor. Usakovs dismissed the checks as nonsense.

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