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    RUSSIAN SCHOOLCHILDREN TAKE TO THE STREETS IN RIGA

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    RIGA, February 11th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Anatoly Baranovsky) - A mass protest of Russian schoolchildren is taking place in Riga, Latvian capital, in front of the president's residence. The protests are aimed against limitations imposed on ethnic minorities' education in their native tongue. 20,000 people are participating in the action.

    A week ago, the Latvian parliament introduced amendments to the law on education envisaging that at least 60% of subjects be taught in the state language, Latvian, at senior forms of ethnic minorities' secondary schools from September 1st.

    Thousands of Russian schoolchildren from Riga and other cities of the republic began gathering in front of the presidential palace at 8 am, which is surrounded by hundreds of policemen and special service officers dressed in civilian clothes. Soon the entire huge palace square was filled with the protesters.

    The participants in the action are shouting out and carrying such slogans as No to the Reform! Freedom to the Russian Language! We Won't Have Our Native Tongue Murdered! We are not Russian Latvians, We Are Latvian Russians! Many of the picketers are wearing white T-shirts with inscriptions: Hands Off Our Schools! and Let Russian Schools Be!

    Russians make about 40% of the Latvian population.

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