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Riga Mayor Vows to Safeguard Russians’ Interests despite Referendum

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Riga Mayor Nil Ushakov vowed on Sunday to continue safeguarding the interests of Latvia’s Russian-speaking population despite the referendum results.

Riga Mayor Nil Ushakov vowed on Sunday to continue safeguarding the interests of Latvia’s Russian-speaking population despite the referendum results.

In a national referendum on Saturday, over 820,000 Latvians voted against granting the Russian a status of the second state language, while more than 273,000 supported the idea.

“A total of 273,347 people voted for this initiative. For me, this number formulates a clear-cut task: to defend till the end your interests,” the mayor of the Latvian capital wrote on his Facebook page.

At least 771,893 Latvian citizens, or half of eligible voters, were required to approve of the initiative for the Russian to become the second state language.

Latvian President Andris Berzins, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Speaker of the Parliament (Saeima) Solvita Āboltiņa on Friday called on the electorate to vote against the adoption of the Russian language.

Russian-speakers make up 44 percent of Latvia's 2.3-million population. Latvian is the official state language and Russian is treated as a foreign language.

Latvia’s Central Election Commission gathered signatures last November for a petition to hold a nationwide referendum on granting Russian official-language status. The move was initiated by the Native Language organization and backed by Ushakov.

Moscow has repeatedly accused ex-Soviet Baltic states Latvia and Estonia of discrimination against their Russian-speaking minorities.

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.

 

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