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Putin threatens Latvia with consequences over Russian minority policies

by Martin Fornusek December 5, 2023 4:07 PM 2 min read
A pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik shows Putin in Moscow on Nov. 14, 2023. (Gavriil Grigorov / POOL / AFP)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Latvia would face repercussions "inside their own country" due to Riga's policies regarding the Russian minority. He made the statement at the meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights on Dec. 4.

Putin's statement comes amid surging tension between NATO and Russia and discussions about a potential future conflict between the two military powers. The Kremlin has previously used the false pretense of "abuse of the Russian-speaking minority" to launch its aggression against Ukraine.

"I don't think that happiness will come to those who pursue such policies. Well, I don't know how many there are now, but in Latvia, I think, there were 40% of the Russian-speaking population, probably, now there are quite a lot too," Putin said.

Some 23.7% of Latvia's population of 1.8 million belong to the Russian minority, according to the Latvian government's data from 2023.

"If they pursue such a policy towards people who wanted to live in that country, worked there, created some good for that country, and they treat them in such a pig-like manner, then they themselves will face the same pig-like behavior within their country," Putin said.

The Russian government should develop "systemic measures" as a response and "adjust relations" with countries carrying out such policies, Russian media wrote, citing Putin.

The Latvian parliament passed an amendment in 2022 tightening residency rules for Russian citizens in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russians living in Latvia are now required to apply for permanent residence and pass a basic-level Latvian language test.

Latvian authorities sent letters to over 3,000 Russian citizens, telling them that they would have to leave Latvia as they failed to register for the residency and the language test.

The Baltic country, which has lived under Soviet dominion for a large part of the 20th century, has also recently intensified its policy of de-Sovietization and de-Russification of the public sphere.

A law passed in September aims to phase out Russian and other minority languages as a language of instruction in schools by 2025.

Russia has labeled such policies in Latvia and other Baltic countries as "Russophobia."

An investigation by the Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT from May revealed Moscow's plans to exert influence over the Baltic states using local pro-Russian organizations and Russian ethnic minorities.

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