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    RUSSIAN SENATOR PRAISES HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN LITHUANIA

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    VIENNA, February 21 (RIA Novosti correspondent Borislav Pechnikov) - There are no differences in human rights between citizens and non-citizens (or stateless persons) in Lithuania at present. Unfortunately, the situation is not the same in other Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia, Vladimir Kulakov, head of the permanent delegation of the Federation Council (Russian parliament's upper house) to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, told RIA Novosti.

    "At present, there is a huge gap between the rights of citizens and non-citizens of Latvia. In particular, the differences include numerous professional restrictions, and also inviolable civil rights, for instance, the purchase of real estate. The situation is the same in Estonia," said Kulakov, who attended the winter session of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly. At the same time, he continued, "there are no such problems in Lithuania, which is largely due to the official Lithuanian authorities." The senator believes that "the Lithuanian government is trying to stick to the pan-European standards as regards protecting ethnic minorities, doing its best to bridge the gap in civil and other rights of all categories of people living on its territory." Kulakov is convinced that since the OSCE, as the most influential and largest regional organization in the world, should use its authority to create a normal atmosphere in Latvia and Estonia for ethnic minorities living on their territory. This is the more so since both countries are due to become EU members on May 1st, 2004, and this organization is known for its strict attitude to the observation of human rights, especially those of ethnic minorities.

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