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    DUMA EXPECTS EU TO STOP LATVIAN GOVERNMENT FROM DISCRIMINATING AGAINST RUSSIAN SPEAKERS

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 6, 2004, RIA NOVOSTI - Dmitri Rogozin, Vice Speaker of Russia's lower parliamentary house, believes that street protests by ethnic Russian students against the Latvian government's measures to squeeze the Russian language out of the school curriculum will produce more effect than the State Duma's appeals to counterparts in Latvia's Saeima.

    Thousands of Russian schoolchildren gathered Thursday outside the parliament headquarters in the Latavian capital of Riga to protest against discriminatory amendments to Latvia's education law.

    The State Duma's protests do not matter any more; only Latvia's Russian schoolchildren can make a difference now, Rogozin said at a press conference.

    Rogozin, who until recently acted as Russian presidential envoy to the European Union, believes that the problem cannot be resolved unless Russia and EU nations step in. In his opinion, the EU must pressure its candidate member state into stopping discriminatory education policies. And if Latvia fails to improve its record, its ascension to the European Union should be postponed.

    Another State Duma Vice-Speaker, Georgy Boos, is hopeful that President Vaira Vike-Freiberga will veto the amendments, narrowing education opportunities for Russian-language students in Latvia. "I hope the Latvian President will make good on her promises by putting a veto on the bill," Boos said to reporters. Interparliamentary relations with Latvia are among the areas for which he is responsible in the State Duma. He expressed regret about the fact that the discriminatory amendments to Latvia's education law had been approved by a Saeima majority.

    The amendments, limiting Russian-language courses at Latvia's Russian schools to 40 percent of the school curriculum, are to go into effect at the beginning of the 2004/2005 academic year.

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