06:55 GMT09 August 2020
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    The ambassadors of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have sent a collective letter to Le Monde requesting that the newspaper stop referring to the Baltic states as "former Soviet Republics."

    According to Sputnik Latvia, the reason for the appeal was an article in the French newspaper about Finland, which featured a map that showed Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania described as 'former republics of the Soviet Union.'

    The story promoted the ambassadors of the Baltic countries in France to create a collective appeal. Latvian Ambassador to France Imants Liegis tweeted a photo of the letter, directed to Le Monde chief editor Luc Bronner.

    The letter explained that the three countries had not entered the USSR voluntarily in 1940, adding that the Baltic states were not created from scratch after the Soviet Union's collapse, but simply regained the independence they enjoyed during the interwar period.

    This is not the first collective appeal of this kind by the three countries' diplomats. Sputnik Lativa recalled that the ambassadors had sent a similar address to German media in January. The pretext that time was a Zeit Online header on the 'Legacy of the Soviet Union'. In that appeal, ambassadors also stressed that the Baltic states did not enter the USSR of their own free will, adding that most of Western countries never recognized their 'occupation' by the Soviet Union.

    In November 2015, the justice ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia signed a memorandum of cooperation on a list of claims for compensation over the "damage caused by the Soviet occupation" of the Baltics from 1940-1945. Latvia alone estimates that the Soviet Union inflicted 300 billion euros in "damage" on the country. Russia has dismissed the claims as absurd.

    Commentators from Russia reacted to the ambassadors' joint letter in a variety of ways, most of them not without a strong sense of irony. Russian military observer Igor Korotchenko countered the Baltic countries' demands for 'reparations' from Russia, tweeting that if the Baltics don't want to be called 'former Soviet republics', maybe they should return the significant resources spent on Baltic industry, infrastructure, housing, education, and other amenities during the Soviet period. Other Russians joked tongue in cheek that instead of 'former USSR', perhaps the Baltics should be called the "former Kurland, Livonia and Estland provinces of the Russian Empire."

    Latvian observers from the news website Respubika.lt were a bit more mature. A user named Toksvienas wrote that while "everyone writes that Russia is rewriting its history, our gentlemen are doing the same thing. After all, these diplomats were probably all born in those Soviet republics." Another, username tiksliau, quipped that "Le Monde could be more precise and call the Baltic states a US occupation zone, where the US military dominates, and American politicians, together with local ex-communists, are pushing us to war."

    media, letter, appeal, Le Monde, Soviet Union, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Baltics, Baltic Region
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