Residents in Riga who speak Russian urge Putin to refrain from “protecting” them in response to Russian State Duma’s statement

On April 29th, several dozen Russian-speaking residents of Latvia held a rally near the Russian embassy in Riga, protesting against Moscow’s interference in Latvia’s internal affairs, and calling on Russia “not to protect” them. Organized by the Russian Voice for Latvia union, the rally was sparked by the State Duma of the Russian Federation’s recent statement on the “inadmissibility of the repressive policy of the leadership of the Baltic states towards the Russian-speaking population”.

People gathered with slogans against Moscow’s interference in Latvia’s internal affairs, including the use of the country’s Russian-speaking residents for Russia’s own political interests, unfurling banners and posters with messages such as “We need Europe, not the Russian peace,” “Latvia is the motherland, Russia is the occupier,” “Don’t poke your nose into Latvia,” and “Get your hands off our country.”

“We want to convey the position of those Russian-speaking Latvians who oppose Moscow’s policy towards the Baltic states and are outraged that the Russian Federation uses them for its political purposes and division in society. Our homeland is Latvia,” said Martin Levushkan, Head of the organization.

One provocateur approached the participants, but overall the rally passed without incident. The Latvian government recently granted Russians additional time to pass a language exam, which is a condition for a residence permit. Surveys have shown that Latvian Russian-speakers consider the country’s foreign policy orientation to the West more desirable than to the East.

This protest highlights the tensions between Russian-speaking minorities and governments in Baltic states, which have been simmering since the end of the Soviet Union. The protesters’ slogan “We need Europe, not the Russian peace” emphasizes their desire to move towards Western-style democracy, in contrast to Russia’s authoritarian government. While it is unclear what actions the Russian government will take, the Latvian protesters have made it clear that they do not want to be part of Russia’s political game.

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