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Moscow to press Latvia to give Russian language official status

MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow will keep up the pressure on Latvia to give the Russian language official status in the Baltic country, a Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

"We believe that we are justified in pushing to have the status of the Russian language in Latvia raised to the level of a state language," said Alexander Chepurin, the head of the ministry's department on relations with the Russian diaspora.

The diplomat said Latvia, where native Russian speakers account for at least 30% of the population, is the only ex-Soviet state to treat Russian as a foreign language. Other states, while maintaining only one state language, have given Russian varying degrees of recognition.

Russian continues to be an official state language in Belarus, and has official or semi-official status in several other ex-Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Chepurin said Russia would raise the issue of the Russian language in Latvia at bilateral meetings and international forums.

Moscow has repeatedly accused ex-Soviet Baltic states Latvia and Estonia of discrimination against their Russian-speaking minorities and urged the countries to stop allowing marches by Nazi Waffen SS veterans.

Many people from the large ethnic Russian population in Latvia and Estonia have been assigned "non-citizen" status, which denies them a national passport and other rights, and prevents them from voting.

The Baltic nations, now EU and NATO members, deem the Soviet Union's annexation of their territories to have been an illegal occupation.

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