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Chronology for Russians in Latvia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Russians in Latvia, 2004, available at: [accessed 16 December 2018]
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Date(s) Item
1101 - 1400 The Baltic peoples coexisted with their neighbors to the East and West until the 12th century when the organization and military prowess of the Scandinavians, Germanic peoples and Slavs surpassed their own. The Danes had conquered the Estonians, but by the middle of the 14th century, both Estonia and much of present-day Latvia (the area known as Livonia) came into the realm of the Teutonic Order. The hierarchy of German landowners persisted through even the rule by the Russian Empire.
1301 - 1800 Meanwhile, the Lithuanians were finding success against the Teutonic Order and even were able to expand their control to Belorusia and Russian cities such as Kiev and Smolensk. Early in the 15th century, the Lithuanians began allying with the Poles and became formal allies in 1569. They would not be separated as such until the final partition in 1795. In 1721, the Treaty of Nystad marked the formal absorption of Estonia and Livonia (Latvia) into the Russian Empire. However, the southern regions remained in Lithuanian (and thereby Polish) control until 1795 when the final partition of Poland placed Lithuania into the Russian Empire (see Hiden and Salmon, pp.10-13).
1801 - 1900 During the 19th century, the program of Russification brought an end to the privileged status of Germans in the regions of Estonia and Latvia. Czar Alexander III, in 1885, instituted Russian as the compulsory language of government. It also led to large-scale migration of Russian peasants into Latvia and Estonia. Meanwhile, the Lithuanians were experiencing even more severe forms of Russification. The local nobility had estates confiscated and distributed to the peasants and the Lithuanian language was repressed. The rural nature of Lithuania limited migration there from Russia.
1917 After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the October Revolution of the same year, each of the republics was granted autonomy, and by 1919 they had functioning sovereign governments.
Aug 23, 1939 The Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact was signed between Germany and the Soviet Union. The effect of this pact was to divide up Eastern Europe for conquest by the two powers, and so by the summer of 1940, Soviet troops had seized control of the governments of the Baltic Republics.
1945 - 1960 After World War II, Stalinization led to a policy of heavy industrialization in the Baltics which led to massive immigration of non-Baltic peoples (mainly Russians) into Latvia and Estonia. Environmental damage to Estonia and Latvia was also more severe than that to Lithuania. The militarization of these strategically vital republics also contributed to the mass immigration. The immigrants were mostly military and blue-collar workers and they settled in urban areas taking mostly low-skill, menial labor. This has contributed to a sense of cultural superiority among native Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
1981 - 1990 Immigration continued after industrialization and planned immigration was abandoned due to the better living conditions found in the Baltics. Latvia came on the verge of losing its ethnic majority in Latvia. Many large cities have non-Latvian majorities.
Oct 1988 Russian workers' collectives in Latvia form a new group, the Internationalist Front of Working People in the Republic of Latvia (Interfront). Similar groups are set up in Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia.
Mar 1990 The rayon soviet of Daugavpils, dominated by members of the pro-Soviet group, Interfront, have decided to hold a referendum on joining either Russia or Byelorussia.
May 4, 1990 Latvia declares its sovereignty and intention to re-establish independence.
Jan 15, 1991 Latvia's capital, Riga, becomes the sight of a tense stand-off between Latvian nationalists and Interior Ministry troops. Interfront, a movement of Russian workers and military personnel in Latvia, agreed to hold a planned rally outside the city, rather than downtown (the rally draws around 12,000 supporters). The coup the government expects never comes.
Aug 19, 1991 The failed coup attempt against Gorbachev by Soviet hardliners allows the Baltics to establish independence and obtain recognition from the world community. After Yeltsin takes over from Gorbachev and dissolves the Soviet Union (December 1991), he officially recognizes the Baltic Republics. The Latvian parliament moved to suspend the pro-Communist group Interfront and the Communist Party for having supported the coup attempt.
Jul 1992 The Latvian Saeima (parliament) reinstated the old 1922 Constitution with a 1991 Constitutional Law as a supplement to the old constitution.
Jul 1992 The Helsinki Final Document calls for full withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Baltic Republics.
Oct 29, 1992 Boris Yeltsin halts the withdrawal of troops from the Baltics over demands for compensation from the Baltic republics and to show concerns for the Russian minorities there.
Nov 1992 Yeltsin appeals to the U.N., citing human rights violations against Russian minorities in Baltics.
Nov 16, 1992 The UNGA passes a resolution calling for all parties involved to reach agreement on the withdrawal of "foreign military forces from the territories of Estonia and Latvia."
Apr 1993 Association of Russian Citizens declares that the linkage between Russian troop withdrawals from Latvia and the minority rights of Russians in Latvia is nothing more than propaganda. They call for the immediate and total withdrawal of all Russian Federation troops from Latvian soil.
May 1 - Jun 30, 1993 Pro-Russian demonstrations draw very small numbers in weeks leading up to June 4-5 elections.
Jun 4 - 5, 1993 National elections are held in Latvia. Between 66% and 75% of Latvian residents qualify to vote (Associated Press and ACCESS GUIDE TO ETHNIC CONFLICT). However, the great majority of those not able to vote are Russian.
Oct 5, 1993 The Latvian government decides it will not register three pro-Russian civic groups, the Association of Russian Citizens, the Union of Communists, and the Latvian Union for the Protection of the Rights of Veterans, on the grounds that they purportedly had been involved in a planned August 1991 putsch against the Latvian government which was to have followed the Moscow coup. The three groups are the largest and most popular pro-Russian groups in Latvia.
Nov 1, 1993 The Helsinki Watch expresses concern over "very serious problems" in Latvia for the Russian minority there.
Dec 1993 The Latvian government removes the head of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for ignoring Latvian court orders to discontinue discriminatory practices against noncitizens.
Mar 15, 1994 Agreement is reached for the withdrawal of the remaining troops (numbering between 7,000 and 10,500) from Latvia by the end of August the same year. The agreement includes provisions for the rights of the Russian minority there, including the pension rights of retired Soviet servicemen who were residing in Latvia prior to January 28, 1992.
Apr 16, 1994 Latvians protest the agreement with Russia over the removal of its troops which includes social guarantees for retired Soviet servicemen.
Apr 30, 1994 Each of the accords on Soviet troop withdrawal, the radar site at Skrunda, and the social guarantees for retired Soviet personnel are signed. The troop pullout is stipulated for completion by August 31, 1994. The accords still require ratification by both parliaments.
Jun 22, 1994 A new Latvian Citizenship Law is passed. The law includes quotas on the naturalization of minorities which is set at a maximum of 230,000 new citizens by the year 2000. Non-citizens are barred from political office, voting, and from purchasing property. President Ulmanis orders Parliament to reconsider the law, but does not yet reject it. The law receives a sharp reaction from Russia which states that it "will resolutely strive to ensure that Latvia complies with the international obligations it has taken upon itself," referring to its human rights obligations for minorities in Latvia.
Jul 5, 1994 Russian demonstrators in Riga accuse the government of promoting "fascism" and "apartheid" on the eve of a visit by U. S. President Bill Clinton.
Jul 7, 1994 Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Duma (parliament) have officially protested the recently passed Latvian law on citizenship and naturalization as discriminatory in a letter to Latvian President Ulmanis. Officials of the Helsinki Watch, the Latvian Committee on Human Rights, and the League of Stateless Persons have also criticized the law.
Jul 22, 1994 The Russian Foreign Ministry announces that the withdrawal of Russian Federation troops from Latvia will be completed by July 30, 1994, a full month in advance of the deadline.
Sep 24, 1994 Juris Dobelis, chairman of the Riga Security and Order Committee, has drafted a law which prohibits the dissemination of "antistate" publications in Riga. This law targets such publications as Den', Pravda Zhirinovskogo', and Zavtra'. The law would allow the mentioned publications and others deemed too "antistate " to be confiscated from merchants who would be fined 50 lats for selling of these materials. (Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/24/94)
Oct 21, 1994 The Riga council has made a decision to withdraw licences from businessmen who do not know the Latvian language, and spot checks checking fluency in the national language will be continued. A member of the council, entrepreneur [Valdis] Krisbergs, said that 88 per cent of businessmen in Riga are not Latvians. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/21/94)
Dec 10, 1994 The Latvian human rights committee has issued an appeal which said that more than 700,000 republican residents who had no Latvian citizenship were denied equal rights. The appeal, which was supported by a 1,500-strong picket in the center of Riga, was addressed to international organizations. It said, among other things, that 100,000 people were not registered as residents of Latvia, and were deprived of the right to work legally, and receive social benefits or register their marriages and births. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/10/94)
Jan 26, 1995 The Riga Council tried unsuccessfully to pass a law which would grant heating benefits only to citizens of the Republic of Latvia. Because the majority of poor Russians living in Latvia have not yet been granted citizenship, this law, if passed, would have seriously affected the Russian community. Vita Terauda however, recognized the decision by Riga Council to be unlawful and rescinded the legislation. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/26/95)
Feb 21, 1995 A senior expert at the educational information center reported that the number of pupils in Latvia's Russian- language schools is dropping. The expert said the number of pupils in Russian-language schools has decreased by more than 23,000 in the last five years. Only 85 per cent of those who attended these schools in 1990 are currently being educated in Russian. At the same time, the number of pupils has increased in Latvian-language schools, and it was predicted that, in seven or eight years, three-quarters of all pupils in Latvia will attend these schools. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/10/95)
Feb 28, 1995 The government will consider the issue of retired Russian military personnel living in Latvia, who were discharged after 28th January 1992. Under government regulations, these persons had to register with the citizenship and immigration department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs by 15th February this year to legalize their presence in Latvia. Later this deadline was extended until 1st March. The servicemen who fail to register within this time become illegal immigrants and can be expelled from the country. The Latvian government believes that as many as 4,000 servicemen may not yet have registered with the government. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/2/95)
May 25, 1995 The Daugavpils [largely Russian-speaking town in eastern Latvia] council in defense of Cyrillic orthography and the Russian language and culture was picketed. The demonstrators regard the fact that the law expressly forbids the use of the Russian language in advertisements and on signboards as repression. They also think that the Russian language and schools, which could become smaller in the future, must be financed from the state budget in proportion to the taxes levied from the incomes of residents of that nationality. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 5/25/95)
Jul 13, 1995 Ravil Yagudin, 56, a Russian citizen and resident of Daugavpils, Latvia, set fire to himself in his yard and died. The relatives of the victim claim his death was a protest against the Citizenship and Immigration Department. Their refusal to give Yagudin and hundreds of other Russians whose families live in Latvia a residence permit prevent the reunification of many Russian families. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/15/95)
Sep 30, 1995 Demanding voting rights for non-citizens, the Latvian Human Rights Committee, which defends the rights of Russian-speakers, has begun a demonstration not far from the Philharmonic building in Riga . About twenty people are taking part in the demonstration. They are carrying placards in Russian, English and Latvian, proclaiming that non-citizens suffer discrimination even though Russians and Latvians will have to live their whole lives together in Latvia. There are also slogans in support of the imprisoned former Communist Party chief, Alfreds Rubiks, as well as some demanding that Riga Councillor Juris Dobelis, who recently dispersed with police assistance a similar demonstration by the capital city's council building, be brought to justice. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/2/95)
Jan 15, 1996 The Latvian Union for the Fatherland and Freedom party, using state funding, has begun collecting signatures for an alternative citizenship bill that would lay down more rigid quotas for citizenship. The new bill would deny citizenship to Russians and other non-Latvians who came to Latvia after 1940. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/30/96)
Oct 15, 1996 A rally attended by almost 1,000 people was held on the five year anniversary of the adoption of the controversial citizenship law which effectively made some 490,000 people (61% of Russians living in Latvia, 80% of Belorussians, and 94% of Ukrainians) living in Latvia second class citizens. Those affected are denied political rights and the right to be land surveyors, firefighters, jurymen, lawyers, or professors. Membership of non-citizens in parties is limited, and their employment abroad is not part of their labor record. The rally adopted an appeal to the UN General Assembly and the UN Economic and Social Council. The appeal calls attention to the difference between Latvian laws and international norms and calls on the international community "to recognize the denial of civil rights to one-third of Latvian residents as a violation of the international law". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/19/96)
Dec 5, 1996 The Saeima [parliament] supported on its third reading a bill on the privatization of land in rural areas, which specifies the arrangements for acquiring land by privatization and selling it thereafter. The amendment allowed a wider range of people to acquire land, but the 700,000 former Soviet citizens resident in Latvia without Latvian citizenship (Mostly Russian nationals) are still not permitted to purchase land because Latvia and Russia have no bilateral treaty for the mutual promotion and protection of investments. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12/10/96)
Feb 6, 1997 The Saeima amended the citizenship law, giving the opportunity to register to those Latvians who arrived in Latvia after 31st March 1996. There was an objection to the amendment from the Fatherland and Freedom deputies, who believe this will allow many Russian Latvians, who do not know Latvian, to register for citizenship, but the Fatherland and Freedom deputies were not able to stop the amendment from passing. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/8/97)
Apr 8, 1997 A conference of Baltic Russians held in Tallinn has called on the ethnic community to "become a nation" and defend its rights. Delegates also demanded state language status for Russian and electoral reform, while visiting Russian MPs pledged support in organizing civil disobedience to achieve these goals. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/8/97)
Sep 12, 1997 A criminal group whose members blew up the Victory Monument in Riga in June of 1997 carried out two more bombings. Members of the group, the Thunder Cross tried unsuccessfully to blow up the Latvenergo [state energy company] in Riga in the spring. Recently they blew up a heating generator of Rigas Siltums [Riga Heating]. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/12/97)
Nov 7, 1997 Alfred Rubik the Russian leader of the Latvian Communist party was released from prison after serving six years of his eight year sentence. While in prison, Rubik, age 62, was elected a member of the Latvian parliament and stood for the presidency. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11/7/97)
Jan 27, 1998 About 32,000 people have emigrated to Russia from the Baltic countries since the restoration of their independence in 1991, the newspaper 'Diena' reports. The Russian immigration office reports that the largest group of these consists of people who have permanently emigrated to Russia from Latvia - 1,729 people. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1/27/98)
Feb 17, 1998 Two hundred Russian-speaking residents of Latvia gathered this afternoon outside the government building in Riga to protest against restrictions on their rights. The mainly elderly people carried the symbols of an international anti-apartheid organization. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/17/98)
Mar 4, 1998 A major social protest action, in which mainly Russian-speaking people took part, began early in the morning and ended the same day in serious clashes with the law-enforcement agencies. Around 2,000 people, mainly elderly, gathered around the Riga council building in the very center of the city to protest about their low standard of living and the constant growth of utilities prices. People blocked the road, one of the city's main highways. The picketers answered police calls to clear the road so traffic could get through by shouting that they didn't understand Latvian, but appeals in Russian did not help either. Traffic in the center of Riga was paralyzed. Latvian police reinforcements arrived and tried to clear the street, but this took some time. The situation gradually got out of control and went as far as clashes between pensioners and police. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/4/98)
Mar 9, 1998 Russia has demanded that those guilty of desecrating a tomb of Soviet soldiers at the central cemetery in Liepaja, Latvia, on Sunday 8th March be punished. A note sent to the Latvian government by Russia underlines that this act of vandalism "was perpetrated with explicit inaction by the local authorities in violation of Latvia's obligations to keep the memorial safe". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/10/98) Also on March 9, representatives of Russian left-wing and nationalist parties burnt a Latvian flag at the Latvian consulate in Pskov. The demonstrators also submitted a statement which they asked to have passed on to the Foreign Ministry. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/12/98)
Mar 16, 1998 About 300 Russian-speaking demonstrators assembled on a square in central Riga to draw public attention to the problems of Latvia's large Russian-speaking minority and to protest against a celebration by former members of a World War II Latvian Nazi force. The demonstrators were holding banners with demands for Latvian citizenship for the 700,000-strong Russian-speaking community, which forms one-third of the country's population. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/16/98)
Mar 17, 1998 A rally and sanctioned march were held in central Riga. About 10,000 people participated in the march which aimed at drawing the government's attention to the problems of aliens (the majority of whom are Russian). Protestors are demanding that the government extend the validity of former USSR passports for travel to CIS states until 2000, end the humiliation of noncitizens at administrative institutions and show legislative initiative in solving the problems of noncitizens in Latvia. The rally was organized by the movement For Social Justice and Equal Rights, the Latvian Socialist Party and the People's Accord Party. A small group of young people who introduced themselves as members of the leftist Working Russia organization took part in the march. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/19/98)
Mar 20, 1998 A Russian citizen has been arrested in Riga on suspicion of genocide against the Latvian people. If Ilya Mashonkin, born in 1915, is charged, he will be the second person charged with genocide in Latvia. The Prosecutor's Office has evidence that Mashonkin took part in the deportation of at least 100 families. When he was a senior authorized agent of the security service in 1949, Mashonkin had the power to take and approve decisions on deportations. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/20/98)
Mar 23, 1998 A Latvian flag was burnt during an unauthorized picket held by the Pskov branch of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia outside the building of the Latvian consulate in Pskov. About 40 people took part in the event. They were protesting against the violation of the rights of Russian speakers in Latvia. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/23/98)
Mar 28, 1998 Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov participated in a picket near the Latvian embassy in Moscow that has been going on for three days. Luzhkov accused the Latvian government of forcing Russians citizens to leave Latvia by turning them into second class citizens. Under current Latvian citizenship law, Russians in Latvia are banned from owning property, engaging in business, running for elected positions or having social guarantees equal to those of citizens. Luzhkov said Russia should "take all possible measures, including economic, trade and humanitarian measures, except force", to protect the Russian-speaking population, including introduction of direct economic sanctions against Latvia." (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/28/98)
Apr 3, 1998 The Yaroslavl Region governor and head of the central Russian regional economic association, Anatoliy Lisitsyn, has called on Yaroslavl Region residents to boycott Latvian goods over violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking community in this Baltic country. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/6/98)
Apr 4, 1998 This morning elderly Russian-speaking people gathered outside the Saeima [parliament] to protest against the adoption of the state language law which is already being criticized by the Council of Europe. The European experts mainly cite the statutes of the European Convention on Human Rights, which regulate the state's right to influence people's private life in any way, and the main objection relating to the state language bill, which was heard from the European experts, concerns those articles which appear to stipulate compulsory use of the state language in organizations and businesses and in business life. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/4/98)
Apr 8, 1998 A member of Russia's State Duma said that Latvia might lose up to one-quarter (300 million dollars) of its national income if Russia ceases to use the Baltic country's territory as a cargo transit stage. Acting Russian Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko's government acted swiftly to plan alternative routes for Russian oil exports to bypass Latvian ports, which get three-quarters of their revenue from Russian transit, and Russian trade sanctions against Latvia began. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/10/98)
May 16, 1998 Around 200 Russian youths held a rally in Riga today to protest against a new education law. The law envisages a considerable increase in the number of subjects taught in the state language in minority schools by 2005. The youths argue that non-natives, who account for 45 per cent of Latvia's population and who pay taxes there, should have the right to be educated in their native language. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 5/16/98)
Jun 16, 1998 Openly anti-Russian meetings took place in Latvia as the republic marked remembrance day for victims of Communist terror. Members of the Latvian leadership participated in the meetings in Riga and other towns. At a meeting in Riga, members of various nationalist organizations and associations of former SS servicemen, as well as some members of the Latvian parliament, blamed Russia and the Russians for genocide against the Latvian people. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/16/98)
Jun 18, 1998 Teachers from Latvia's Russian-speaking community are set to protest on 19th June against a decree which states that, by September, they will all have to know Latvian "to the highest standard" or face dismissal. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/18/98)
Jun 29, 1998 The Peoples' Harmony Party has decided to join Latvia's Socialist Party, the ethnic-Russian Equality movement and the Russian Party in a union of political organizations calling For Human Rights in a United Latvia. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/29/98.
Jul 1, 1998 The Latvian Citizenship and Immigration Department has announced that from July, noncitizens of Latvia who leave the country on foreign passports of the former USSR will be unable to use them to return. The Latvian government decision envisages that noncitizens must now apply to the Latvian embassy to obtain special permission to return to the country, and each such document can be used only once and only if the applicant is registered as residing permanently in Latvia. This new policy will be of great hindrance to the majority of Russian noncitizens living in Latvia who have relatives in Russia and other areas of the former USSR. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/1/98)
Sep 24, 1998 Riga's city authorities rejected a request by the Latvian Russian-speaking community for permission to hold a rally on one of the capital's central squares. The Riga legislative assembly's press office told the Baltic News Service that, in turning down the Russian Community's request, the legislature's deputy executive director, Ita Zarina, acted in accordance with a 1993 ban on rallies, demonstrations, pickets and other political actions on Esplanade Square. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9/29/98)
Oct 3, 1998 A fight broke out in Filharmonijas Square in the center of Riga between participants in a demonstration of Russian speakers and passing Latvian women. About 20 people from Latvia's Russian community staged a demonstration to protest against Latvia's nationality policy. The demonstrators were attacked by three passing Latvian women. A brawl broke out in which protest placards were torn up, but no one was seriously injured. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/3/98)
Oct 8, 1998 About 100 people picketed the Latvian parliament to protest against a bill on the state language. The picketers had their mouths covered with labels with inscriptions in Latvian, Russian and English saying the "state language law". Several pickets had placards saying "equal rights for everyone","state language status for the Russian language" and "language should not become a cause for discrimination". The parliament was considering the state language bill in the third reading. However, it later discontinued considering the bill and sent it to the relevant parliamentary commission for a review. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 10/9/98)
Oct 30, 1998 As of 1st June 1999, education in Latvian government and municipal educational institutions will be conducted only in Latvian, under an education law passed by parliament. The law permits special educational programs for ethnic minorities in foreign languages, but it also binds the Education Ministry to make a list of subjects which non-Latvians must study only in Latvian. Under the law, secondary education certificates cannot be given without a Latvian language test. In addition, examinations to prove professional skills and theses for scientific degrees will be given only in Latvian. This new law is expected to evoke protests from Russian communities. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11/2/98)
Nov 10, 1998 Noncitizens, who make up one-third of Latvia's population, will henceforth be able to become citizens faster since the appropriate changes to the law on citizenship approved by a recent referendum went into effect. The changes abolish the system of "windows" that envisaged age restrictions for the applicants. But all claimants will have to take examinations to prove that they are in command of the Latvian language and know enough about its history and the constitution. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11/11/98)
Dec 11, 1998 The National Radio and Television Council has decided to take a decision on 7th January about closing the operations of TV Riga, which broadcasts on Channel 43. The council has unanimously decided that the state language law is being thoroughly violated at the moment on Channel 43, as basically all programs are in Russian.
Feb 4, 1999 Russia announced it is ready to normalize relations with Latvia "if Riga takes practical steps to improve the humanitarian situation in Latvia". Russia believes that authorities should try to resolve the problem of massive absence of citizenship and guarantee the rights of ethnic minorities in accordance with the well-known recommendations of international organizations. Pressing problems such as accelerated naturalization, the nondiscriminatory application of the law on education, the adoption of a language law meeting international standards and the simplification of the reunification of families were identified as the key areas in need of work. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2/4/99)
Mar 3, 1999 Despite concerns about a repeat of violent skirmishes with police, a rally of 1500 pensioners in central Riga ended without incident. The rally, organized by the Equal Rights movement in Riga, was supposed to commemorate Vladimir Artemyev, who participated in the March 3, 1998 rally in which a clash with police broke out, and allegedly died from a stroke shortly after wards. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/3/1999)
Mar 13, 1999 Riga's Kurzeme District Court sentenced five more members of the organization Russian National Unity, or the so-called Barkashovites, yesterday to administrative confinement for five days. All together, 11 radicals have been jailed this month in Latvia for short terms. The five were sentenced for a non-sanctioned gathering on 23rd February at the Garrison Cemetery in Riga, where they had organized a military guard of honor during the arrival of a Russian-Belarusian delegation. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/13/99)
Mar 17, 1999 Ceremonies were held in Riga and other Latvian towns on 16th March to mark Latvian Soldiers' Memorial Day, recently declared a national day. Controversy has surrounded the event and its associations with the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS in World War II, and both military and political officials were discouraged from attending it. The Russian community in Latvia organized a protest demonstration in Riga during the ex-servicemen's march. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 3/17/99)
Apr 23, 1999 More than 7,000 Russian speakers in Daugavpils, Latvia's second biggest city, have put their signatures on a protest against Riga's attempts to oust the Russian language from public use. Daugavpils people, 85 per cent of whom are non-Latvian, are thus expressing their outrage at the education law, which provides for Latvian to replace other languages in schools for the national minorities. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 4/28/99)
Jun 17, 1999 Vaira Vike-Freiberga, of the Peoples Party was elected President for a four year term by the Latvian parliament. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 6/17/99)
Jul 19, 1999 A little over ten young people established a public organization called Kolovrat in Riga today; its members are mainly representatives of the Russian National Unity, or Barkashovite, organization. The inaugural meeting approved the organization's statutes, which state that the organization's aims will be to preserve Russian culture and the population's links with Russia, and to improve the rights of Russian speakers. Elected as the organization's leader was 22-year-old Roman Lyubimov. (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/19/99)
Jul 19, 1999 A center-right coalition of three political parties set to take power in Latvia signed a policy agreement in Riga today that may put the Baltic state's government on a collision course with the president over the country's controversial language law. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga had refused to approve the law and sent it back to the parliament in the Latvian capital late yesterday, after Russia and Europe warned that it violated international standards for human rights. But the three parties in the new coalition - the People's Party, Latvian Way and Fatherland and Freedom - along with their prime ministerial nominee, Andris Skele, unanimously supported the law when parliament approved it last week. As the law passed through the parliament last week, it required that all public events and signs must be in the Latvian language. Vike-Freiberga said that parts of the law "contradicted the constitution" including the clause that required all signs to be in Latvian. Other parts, she said, were vague and could "create favorable conditions for official corruption". (Source BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 7/19/99)
Jul 29, 1999 It is reported that by the end of year 2000 the work of the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental committee will be restored, and the Latvian Foreign Ministry will prepare for signing the border agreement with Russia. It is also reported that political consultations between the foreign ministers of the two countries will hold in November 1999. The Latvian government approved the border agreement with Russia late in 1997 and said already then that it was ready to sign it. The agreement was under coordination with Russia for more than a year and a half and some progress was achieved only after Latvia dropped its demand to include in the agreement a reference to the peace agreement of 1920(Baltic News Service).
Aug 7, 1999 The Russian human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov, said that he planned to ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to put on its agenda the issue of how Latvia met its commitments of a member of this organization. Mironov stated that the 741,000 Russian speakers constituted 30.4 percent of the population and only 289,000 of them were Latvian citizens. He stressed that "Latvian authorities had basically created a situation where the majority of Russian-speaking residents had become "second-class" citizens." The commissioner noted more than 40 differences between the rights of citizens and non-citizens, the most important of the lack of voting rights in any elections to non-citizens. Mironov stressed that 30 percent of Latvian permanent residents had no voting rights which was a violation of the 21st article of the Universal Human Rights Declaration. According to Mironov's estimates, most of Latvia's legal acts referring to citizenship, elections of central and local authorities, state service, pre-election canvassing, language, entrance and staying of foreigners, and police - were "not in line with European standards and were directed towards creating such a political, social, economic and cultural situation so that to force the Russian -speakers to leave the country." Communist faction representative Mironov replaced the famous human rights advocate Sergey Kovalev as Russia's human rights commissioner. Kovalev was dismissed by the communist majority in the Russian parliament after Kovalev spoke out against the war in Chechnya (Baltic News Service).
Aug 13, 1999 Nearly 100 people participated in a rally at the US Embassy in the Latvian capital Riga to protest against the imprisonment of the former red guerilla Vassily Kononov who is being held on genocide charges. Kononov has been accused of shooting the entire population of a small Latvian village. Protestors claimed Kononov had been fighting against Nazis and their collaborators and his arrest was a justification of Fascism. The protestors requested that the American Embassy help secure Kononov's release from prison. The protesters presented a similar appeal to an official at the French Embassy in Riga (Baltic News Service).
Aug 23, 1999 About 80 people stood in a picket line at the Russian consulate in Liepaja marking the 60th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Representatives of the youth branch of the Union for the Fatherland and Freedom - LNNK (about 40 people) joined the picket. The protesters held placards condemning the pact signed on 23rd August 1939. The placards were in both Latvian and Russian and read "Time to correct mistakes", "Long live Latvia", "Russian government must admit its mistake made on 23rd August 1939", "Hands off Latvians". The peaceful protest was aimed at reminding Russia and the international community of the tragic consequences that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact had on the Baltic states (BBC).
Aug 24, 1999 In his address to a conference of Latvian intelligentsia marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Baltic countries' movement for the restoration of their independence, Latvia's Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said "As this country integrates into European and transatlantic structures, so will Russian speakers integrate into Latvia." In the minister's view, entry into the EU and NATO would persuade the country's Russian-speaking non-citizens that "Latvia as a state exists and will exist", and so they must take an active part in its political life, study the Latvian language and become Latvian citizens. Berzins said Latvia should "do a lot" so that in 2002, when NATO enlargement is expected to be examined again, the Latvians "would not be the last" and a "logical decision" should be taken on the admission of the Baltic countries to the North Atlantic Alliance. Among the top-priority tasks to become integrated into NATO, the minister named the creation of a small army able to cooperate with the alliance, annual increases in defense spending and participation in NATO peacekeeping actions. All this, in the minister's opinion, should be done in close collaboration with "Baltic partners", Estonia and Lithuania. Speaking of the strategic objective of ensuring peace and stability in the Baltics, Berzins pointed to the need to "attract Russia's cooperation" and ensure "US participation in the region's affairs" (BBC).
Sep 10, 1999 Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that Russia should not adopt the law on the measures aimed at elimination of violations of the basic rights and freedoms of Russia's citizens and compatriots in Latvia because it would cause negative consequences for Russia's economy and would negatively affect the situation of those persons whose protection should be secured accordingly to the intention of the authors of the bill. The Russian president's press office also reported that Yeltsin had made some essential notes concerning the text of the law on measures for extending humanitarian assistance to Russian citizens and Russian compatriots permanently residing in Latvia in connection with mass violations of human rights and the rights of the Russian people, also adopted by the State Duma in the first reading (Baltic News Services).
Sep 16, 1999 The World of Information Country Report discussed the situation of ethnic Russians in light of the withdrawal of the Russian military presence from Latvia and the revisions in the country's citizenship law. It stated that the August 31, 1994 completion of the withdrawal of Russian troops left a large number of retired Russian military personnel and their families in the country. Right-wing politicians have demanded the repatriation of all Russians but the government took a low-key approach for fear of damaging relations with Russia. It also indicated that in June 1998 the government revised its citizenship laws giving stateless children citizenship provided they had lived in Latvia for at least five years (World of Information Country Report).
Sep 25, 1999 While visiting the US, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that Russian-Latvian relations were stable and that she hoped for positive developments. She added that their bilateral relations depended on political and ideological tendencies in Russia. The Latvian president observed that Russia had recently hampered bilateral trade relations. In connection with the citizenship law, Vike-Freiberga stated that its adoption was a "manifestation of loyalty" to the state of residence and "does not mean assimilation". Asked about Latvia's draft law on the language which she had refused to sign and returned to parliament, she said that she was not satisfied with the "phraseology" of some clauses but that did not mean that she was against the "spirit" of the law (Itar-Tass News Agency).
Oct 1, 1999 In response to a statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemning Mihails Farbtuh's conviction, Janis Silis, a representative of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Center, said that the genocide trial had no political slant. According to Silis, there were no time limitations for crimes against humanity. The statement was made after the Riga Regional Court found Farbtuh guilty of genocide against the Latvian people in World War II and sentenced him to seven years in prison, and after a representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that the verdict "creates obstacles for Latvian-Russian relations and contradicts the goal declared by the Latvian government on mutual agreement and social consolidation" (BBC).
Oct 8, 1999 The Russian embassy in Latvia denied an entry visa to Latvian MP Juris Vidins from the nationalist Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK party. The reason was that Vidins headed a group of Latvian MPs supporting Chechnya. Vidins told the Baltic News Service that the Russians feared that he might contact the Chechen delegation in Moscow (Baltic News Service).
Oct 13, 1999 The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (CEPA) criticized Latvia for having failed to ratify the general convention on relations with minorities and for having failed to solve several problems in naturalization and other areas related to the non-citizen population. Members of the CEPA Monitoring Commission stayed in Latvia for two days and during that time they met with representatives of ministries, political parties, and non-governmental organizations, as well as the Russian ambassador to Latvia (BBC).
Oct 20, 1999 The Russian Foreign Ministry's official representative Vladimir Rakhmanin. told Baltic News Service that Latvia had launched legal prosecution against people who had carried out repression under the rule of the former Soviet Union leader Yosif Stalin in order to incite anti-Russian sentiments among Latvian residents. He pointed out that such actions by Latvian authorities would not facilitate either consolidation of Latvia's community or good neighborly relations with Russia. The Russian Ambassador to Latvia, Aleksandr Udaltsov, said that the genocide charges brought against two officers of the former Soviet security agencies marked the beginning of a "witch-hunt" in Latvia. Two alleged executors of Stalinist repression, Yevgeny Savenko and Nikolay Latrionov, were recently indicted in Latvia. Savenko, a Russian citizen, was being held in custody. It is likely that Latrionov may also end up in pre-trial detention (Baltic News Services).
Nov 5, 1999 Boris Karpichkov, a former KGB officer who had been arrested at the request of the Latvian government and sent to Brixton prison in south London, said that he feared for his life if he was returned to face charges of fraud in Latvia. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Karpichkov said that his record as an agent spying at various times on the Russians, the Latvians, the CIA and the Russian mafia had placed his life in jeopardy. Karpichkov is awaiting extradition proceedings over an alleged 500,000 pounds embezzlement at a Latvian bank (The Daily Telegraph).
Nov 22, 1999 Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga criticized Russia's introduction of economic sanctions against Latvia. Neither Russia nor Latvia would benefit from such sanctions, Vike- Freiberga told the Russian -language Chas newspaper (Interfax Russian News).
Dec 11, 1999 Demonstrators from the political association for Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL) were shouting "Down With Bias!" and "Freedom for the Russian Language!" at the Saeima (parliament) to protest the expected approval of the State Language Law. Meanwhile representatives from the Fatherland and Freedom political party LNNK (TB/LNNK) voiced their support for the Latvian language and urged aliens to get out of Latvia. Members of both groups engaged in a shouting match as the demonstration drew to a close. The Russian-speakers called their opponents "fascists" , while the "fatherlanders" urged the Russians to find refuge in Russia's "wide open spaces"(BBC).
Dec 20, 1999 The Russian embassy in Riga reported that the voting process among Russian citizens who permanently or temporarily resided in Latvia was well-organized and active. On the eve of elections, Riga hosted a meeting of Russian representatives in Latvia who called on Russian citizens residing in the country to "accept their civil and political responsibility by taking an active part in the elections and by voting for those candidates and election blocs who are capable of upholding Russia's interests on the international arena" and who "will recognize Russian citizens residing in former republics of the USSR as their compatriots who need practical help and support." Election organizers in Latvia, who closely cooperated with local authorities, had coordinated safety measures with Latvian guard services to protect against any violent acts that might have been organized by Chechen separatists (BBC).
Jan 4, 2000 It is reported that the so-called "Barkashovites" intended to establish a political party and they hoped to register it officially. The "Barkashovites" set up a new cultural and economic organization, the "Kolovrat", in July of the past year but the Registry of Enterprises refused to register it. The party's official name would be Russian National Unity. According to the leader of the "Barkashovites," Yevgeniy Osipov, a congress was planned in March with 250 delegates expected. Osipov declared that the organization would overcome all obstacles in its registration, and advised Latvian authorities to "make friends with the organization". The organization stated that it would act in accordance with the Human Rights Convention, the Latvian legislation, and its own charter.(BBC)
Jan 26, 2000 The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it regarded the January 21 verdict of a Riga district court as "a cynical insult to the memory of millions of victims of Nazism". The court found the 77-year-old veteran of the Great Patriotic War and former partisan Vasiliy Kononov "guilty of war crimes" and sentenced him to six years of imprisonment. This verdict "stirred up public opinion and veteran organizations in Russia", the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "What has happened is unprecedented in world practice a man has been condemned for fighting fascism," the statement said. The Russian Foreign Ministry added that "the trial creates a dangerous precedent, which could result in a mass 'witch hunt'". The Russian Foreign Ministry made the point that "the Latvian court, with the moral support of the authorities, has to thrown down a challenge to all those who fought on the side of the anti-Hitler coalition, and has shown complete disrespect for the spirit and principles of the Nuremberg trials". The Russian Foreign Ministry statement also said that the question was raised "whether it is not time for the European Union, which Latvia is so eager to join, to give a realistic assessment of what is happening in that country, the continuing 'ethnic self-cleansing' and the shielding of accomplices in fascist crimes during World War II"(BBC).
Feb 3, 2000 A spokesman for the interior ministry said that Latvian police cracked down on a group of young radicals allegedly linked to the Russian National Bolshevik Party (NBP). The police searched members' apartments and an NPB office, confiscating "placards, leaflets and literature". The NBP members refused to abide by Latvian laws banning Soviet imagery and slogans. Most members were of university age. The illegal party's newspaper, the General Line, carried stories urging Russian residents in Latvia to question the Latvian government's will to aid Russians living in the Baltic state. The NPB's newspaper also asked Russians to re-assert their right to speak their native language, which was not given equal standing with the Latvian language under the law. Latvia's government began monitoring the NPB in 1998, when the group held a large protest in cooperation with legal leftist politicians, calling people to "remember Pushkin and Dostoevsky" by bolstering Russian-language education in Latvia. Government officials at the time described the protest as "obviously subversive" and "not within boundaries of free speech" (Deutsche Presse Agentur).
Feb 15, 2000 Aiva Rozenberga, a spokeswoman for the Latvian president, told Baltic News Service that the council for the Tristar Order decided to bestow the highest Latvian honor to the former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, for his contribution in restoring Latvia's independence. The proposal to grant the order to Yeltsin came from the New Party. In addition, Yeltsin also blocked decisions of the Russian State Duma parliament to enact economic sanctions against Latvia (BBC).
Feb 23, 2000 Latvian President Vaira Vike- Freiberga said that a jail sentence given to a former Soviet guerrilla found guilty of murdering civilians during World War II was based on the law and was not politically motivated. Vasiliy Kononov "is being judged for the murder of civilians, for a war crime; he is not being judged for his antifascist activity", Vike- Freiberga said in reply to a letter from acting Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had called for overruling the Riga Court's 21st January sentence. "Nor are war crimes subject to any statute of limitations under Latvian law", Vike-Freiberga said. "Such crimes are punishable regardless of which ideology has been used to justify them and regardless of the age of those who have committed them," she said, adding that Latvia "has been firmly building a democratic, open and law-governed state". The president said that the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe had praised Latvia for this. "Latvia provides the entire international community with a good example by taking care of human rights in its state," Vike-Freiberga said. She said that Kononov's sentence was not in force yet because it has been appealed to the Supreme Court. Vike-Freiberga promised that Latvian authorities would strictly abide by national and international law in handling the case (BBC).
Mar 1, 2000 One day after reproaching Latvia over the conviction of former Soviet partisan Vassily Kononov, the Russian Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Latvia about bringing to trial Yevgeny Savenko, another employee of the former Soviet security services. A veteran of the Soviet interior authorities, Yevgeny Savenko, 86, was charged with participation in repression against the Latvian population carried out during the first Soviet occupation of the Baltic state in 1940 until the German occupation. The Russian ministry claimed Savenko had been unjustly charged for fighting against supporters of Nazi rule, although in fact the man was being tried for participation in Stalinist repression before the German occupation of Latvia in 1940. In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had obtained information about the Latvian prosecutor's office planning to institute proceedings against 150 more "former members of anti-Fascist resistance" (Baltic News Services).
Mar 1, 2000 Former Soviet WW II partisan Vasily Kononov convicted in Latvia for war crimes sent a letter to acting Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kononov expressed gratitude to Putin for defending him saying that this had inspired him for a fresh fight. "I am jailed but I am constantly fighting for truth. The experience of work and fight has taught you a lot, including fighting in any circumstances for which I am glad and which I am even proud of," the letter said. A...I can tell you gladly that it (fight) is continuing. I am fighting not only for myself but also for my contemporaries in fight against fascism, for the bright festivities of Victory,. ... The humankind is again threatened by black forces whose goal is revise the outcome of the Patriotic War. It must not be admitted," Kononov wrote. Kononov is waiting for an appeal of his case on killing nine Latvian civilians during the WWII (Baltic News Service).
Mar 13, 2000 Russian expert Boris Kagarlitsky, in an interview with the daily Diena, stated that the Baltic states may be threatened not by conscious aggression by Russia but by the possible uncontrollability of their domestic situations and the hysterics of power that may prompt unexpected irrational steps. (Baltic News Services)
Mar 16, 2000 The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the recent SS march and a meeting of SS men at the cemetery of Liepaja had been another telling indication of the quest of certain political circles in Latvia to revise the outcome of World War II. "The odious manifestations of Hitlerian epigoni conducted with consent of official authorities are unfolding against the background of the reviving campaign of persecution of veteran anti-fascists," the statement said (Itar Tass News Agency).
Mar 16, 2000 Over 1,000 former members of the Latvian SS legion and their supporters carrying flags and wearing black mourning bands marched in the center of Riga to commemorate their comrades in arms killed during World War II. After a church service in the ancient Dom cathedral, the procession headed down the streets of the ancient part of the city to the Freedom monument. Marchers included parliament members from the party Fatherland and Freedom Peteris Tabuns and Juris Dobelis, member of the Riga Duma Aigars Kimenis and other prominent politicians. Similar processions in 1998 and 1999 aroused vehement protests. The Russian language press called them marches of SS-men. Latvia was criticized for backing Nazi supporters (Interfax Russian News).
Mar 16, 2000 The chairman of the Duma International Committee and a member of the People's Deputy Group Dmitriy Rogozin said that economic sanctions against Latvia might be announced due to its human rights violations. The Duma Council decided to discuss two bills concerning Latvia. "One of the bills is related to economic sanctions and the other concerns humanitarian assistance to ethnic Russians in Latvia," Rogozin said (BBC).
Mar 17, 2000 Latvia cannot accept the policy pursued by Russia against Latvia, and believes it is in the interests of Russia to at last acknowledge the occupation of the Baltic states, planned jointly by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This opinion was expressed to the Baltic News Service by Secretary of State Maris Riekstins of the Foreign Ministry. Riekstins said that in terms of democracy, justice, and observance of human rights Latvia was a member of Europe's family. "In our country no criminal who has perpetrated crimes against humanity will go unpunished. We call on Russia to go along this road and become a European country in this sense," said Riekstins (BBC).
Mar 29, 2000 The State Duma put off the discussion of two bills on Russia's political, economic, and other measures to uphold the basic rights and liberties of Russian citizens in the Latvian Republic. They included the bill "On Measures of the Russian Federation to Prevent Violations of the Basic Rights and Liberties of Citizens of the Russian Federation and Russian Fellow-Countrymen in the Latvian Republic" and the bill "On Measures to Render Humanitarian Aid to Citizens of the Russian Federation and Fellow-Countrymen Permanently Residing in Latvia in View of the Numerous Violations of Human Rights and of the Rights of Russians in the Latvian Republic". The need to put off the discussion of these two important bills was necessitated by the fact that members of the Committee for CIS Affairs and Contacts with Fellow-Countrymen disagreed on several paragraphs of the draft resolutions concerning these bills. The MPs would meet in one week to resume discussions (ITAR-TASS News Agency).
Mar 31, 2000 NATO secretary general, George Robertson, arrived in Latvia on a two-day visit. He is the third leader of the North Atlantic Alliance to visit Latvia. Latvia and its Baltic neighbors hope to join NATO when the security alliance next considers expanding in 2002 (Agence France Presse).
Apr 11, 2000 The request to allow Russian medics and the ambassador to meet with former Soviet partisan Vassiliy Kononov, who was convicted for war crimes in Latvia, was turned down by the Riga Regional Court. Russia said in its statement that the Latvian Foreign Ministry had also turned down the request by the Russian government to allow Russian doctors to examine Kononov, 77, and provide medical assistance, if needed. "This approach indicates that Latvian authorities fully ignore generally accepted principles of humanism," the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed (Baltic News Services).
Apr 13, 2000 The Latvian ambassador to Moscow Imants Daudiss said that Latvia was unperturbed by the offer of Russian citizenship for Vasiliy Kononov, an ethnic Russian sentenced in Latvia for war crimes. He doubted whether it could have any influence on the legal process, but pointed out that if Kononov became a Russian citizen, Russia could request his extradition once his appeal was complete. Daudiss said that Latvia viewed Russia as a neighbor with whom to be friends, but acknowledged that it had looked west for political and economic ties lately. He said that Latvia looked at NATO as primarily a political rather than military organization. He hoped that a draft bill to introduce economic sanctions against Latvia would fail, adding that sanctions would hit Russian speakers in Latvia first (BBC).
Apr 13, 2000 ITAR-TASS reported that Soviet partisan Vasily Kononov was to appear before a Latvian court as a Russian citizen after President-elect Vladimir Putin had granted him Russian citizenship. A subject of contention for the Appeal Court would be the fact that the former commander was found guilty under a law passed in 1993, 49 years after the event. Kononov's lawyer said that international legal practice dictates that a person cannot be convicted by a law not in existence at the time of the crime. Russia had tried to get international institutions to intervene. However, the minorities commissioner for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that there should be no meddling in the case as it was still being appealed. The two countries have not yet signed a border treaty (Agence France Presse).
Apr 13, 2000 More than 30 people gathered at the Riga Regional Court to express their support for World War II veteran Vasiliy Kononov. The demonstrators carried placards in Russian and Latvian demanding the release of Kononov and condemning the present government. Most of the demonstrators were elderly people (BBC).
Apr 20, 2000 The Latvian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on accusations made by the Russian Foreign Ministry that reproached Latvian authorities for harassing former KGB officers living in the Baltic country. The accusations were made by the Russian Foreign Ministry press department that released a statement over the fate of KGB veteran Vassily Kirsanov, who died at the age of 80 from heart failure in a mental facility to which he had been confined by the court pending trial. Kirsanov had suffered from mental infirmity due to old age. He had not understood much of what was going on and had not even been able to study the indictment, the Baltic News Service reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry called Kirsanov the second victim in Latvia's charges of genocide. "While proclaiming a policy of building a law-governed democratic state, Riga in actual fact harasses helpless old people," the statement said. Kirsanov's case was already sent to court therefore the Latvian prosecutor's office would have to decide whether the case should be heard in the court anyway. Under the law there is no statute of limitations for genocide crimes (Baltic News Service).
Apr 26, 2000 Russian citizen Vasily Kononov was released from custody on April 26. The next day Russia reinstated favored treatment for the transit of Latvian goods, which had been revoked two years ago (Current Digest of the Post Soviet Press).
May 3, 2000 In an interview with the BBC, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga stated that Russia might again use armed force to conquer the Baltic countries. This, she said, would be an indirect attack on NATO and the European Union. Vike-Freiberga also said the Russians in Latvia should go back to their native country if they disliked the idea of a free and sovereign Latvia. Russia's ambassador to Latvia said that such unfriendly words from the leader of a state bordering Russia had come as a "complete surprise" to him. "There have been no reasons lately for such statements," Alexander Udaltsov told Interfax. State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov denied that there had been any threat to Latvia from Russia, which had reduced its armed forces in its northwestern regions. Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, head of the international cooperation department of the Russian Defense Ministry, told Interfax "The majority of European states appreciate the constructive foreign and defense policies of Russia. This means chances for the enlargement of the NATO bloc are reducing. Vike-Freiberga's words were an attempt to make entry to NATO easier for Latvia", he said (Interfax Russian News).
May 9, 2000 A commentary in the West LB Country Profile identifies major strains in Russian-Latvian relations. One issue is the Latvian State Language Law which requires that residents gain proficiency in Latvian and business be conducted in Latvian. The original draft bill has been severely criticized by international observers and Russia for having undermined the rights of Latvia's large ethnic Russian minority. Under pressure from the EU, Latvian authorities watered down the controversial aspects of the State Language Law. Another source of contention is the Latvian authorities' prosecution and subsequent imprisonment of former Red Army soldiers for war crimes committed during WWII. A third source of tension, the commentary observes, is Latvia's decision to no longer (as of March 31) accept the validity of Soviet-era passports, which are held by around 400,000 people currently in Latvia but who are classified as non-residents. Moscow has responded by threatening to impose economic sanctions (a ban on business and the supply of fuel and energy) on Latvia (West LB Country Profile).
May 9, 2000 Victory Day, which marks the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, was celebrated on an unprecedented scale in the Latvian capital. Over a thousand people, mostly war veterans, their relatives and friends gathered near the Victory Monument in Riga. Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Udaltsov came to the Victory Monument to lay a wreath on behalf of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Moscow city administration and Belarus government sent wreaths. The participants of the rally were addressed by Latvian leftist parliamentary faction leader Janis Jurkans, leftist leader Alfreds Rubiks and representatives from the Belarus Embassy in Riga. Members of the Russian extremist movement of National Bolsheviks were walking in the middle of the procession, carrying a red poster that read in white letters in Russian "Victory or Death." Another poster claimed that NATO was worse than AIDS (Baltic News Service).
May 10, 2000 A commentary in Defense and Security points to a recent statement by Latvian president Viara Vike-Freiberg as additionally aggravating Russian-Latvian relations. It is noted, that during her visit to Tallinn, Estonia's capital, Vike-Freiberg has said that Moscow has chosen Latvia, a country lying between Estonia and Lithuania, as an instrument for splitting the Baltic states. Defense and Security suggests that statements like this should be attributed to the government crisis in Latvia (Defense and Security).
May 10, 2000 The Supreme Court of Latvia began hearing an appeal in the case of red partisan Vasily Kononov, whom a Latvian court had sentenced to six years in prison. Kononov's attorney, Aleksandr Ogurtsov, said that the granting of Russian citizenship to his client would not affect the case in any way (Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press).
May 18, 2000 The Latvian parliament voted down on May 11 the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minority Rights, signed back in 1995. The parliament members from the ruling coalition, who voted against ratification, refused to send it over to parliamentary commissions. They declared that local laws guaranteed practically equal rights to all nationalities living in the country. In Moscow, the refusal of the Latvian Parliament to ratify the convention was not left unnoticed. The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the right-wing majority in the Latvian parliament had once again demonstrated the "unwillingness" of the parliament "to associate itself with European standards in politics with regard to national minorities and to bring its legislation closer to those standards" (RusData DiaLine-Bizecon News).
May 19, 2000 The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Russia reproached Latvia for imprisoning Mihails Farbtuh, who was convicted of genocide. Russia believed that this step by the authorities was "another inhuman act from the Latvian side". The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Latvia's court had taken into account neither Farbtuh' age, nor his poor condition, even though these two arguments had been included in the European Union legislation as mitigating circumstances. The court's verdict was equal to a death penalty, the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry said. Attorney-at-law Aleksandrs Ogurcovs had lodged an appeal asking for postponement of the implementation of the verdict until his client's condition improved, but the court rejected it. The Russian Ministry statement also noted that the war veteran Farbtuh had been convicted of crimes that happened more than half a century ago, at the time, and in a country where such action was not seen as unlawful (BBC).
Jun 5, 2000 Latvia's admission to NATO may prompt the deployment of 300,000 troops in Belarus near the Latvian border, Russian State Duma defense committee deputy chairman Alexei Arbatov said. He made this statement Monday, addressing participants at the conference " Latvia -Russia in Common Europe in the 21st Century" held in the Latvian sea-side resort Jurmala. At present the 300,000-strong army unit announced by Belarus President Alexander Luksahenko exists only on paper but in case Latvia joins NATO, Russia may take it as a real threat and begin forming its military bases in Belarus, Arbatov warned. Russian representatives stressed that European Union (EU) membership could be an alternative to Latvia's membership in NATO. Latvia's admission to the EU, although likely to cause economic difficulties for Russia, would not affect its security, they noted (Baltic News Service).

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