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    LATVIA PUTS OFF RUSSIAN CULTURE DAYS FOR TWO YEARS. RUSSIAN MP UPSET

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    MOSCOW, APRIL 2, RIA NOVOSTI - Latvian authorities determined to postpone upcoming Russian Culture Days from this year to 2006 against a schedule envisaged by a three-year cultural exchange programme signed by the two countries at a ministerial level.

    The information came from Konstantin Kosachev, international affairs committee head at the State Duma, Russia's lower parliamentary house. He regretted the postponement, the MP said to a media audience.

    Latvia says it cannot afford to host Culture Days just now. As its authorities shrug off their pledges, they refer to cultural links with the European Union as top priority to explain why allocations have been channelled off the Russian event.

    It is not wise of Latvia to see its membership of the EU and NATO as reason to cut contacts with Russia, warned the prominent parliamentarian.

    "If the Latvian top thinks it ought to distance off from Russia as the country is integrating into European institutions, it will hardly gain much, whether materially or politically. Enemies of Latvian-Russian partnership will feel satisfied, and that will be the only achievement," he remarked.

    Not only ethnic Russians but all Russian speakers in Latvia regard Russian culture as spiritually enriching them, and policies aimed to reduce contacts with Russia offend them, added Mr. Kosachev.

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