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Foreign Minister Says Ethnic Russian Rights Abused in Baltics

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Old 7th June 2001, 20:08
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Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Thursday criticised Latvia and Estonia for abusing the rights of ethnic Russians and accused Estonia in particular of discriminating against Orthodox believers.

"Provision of equal rights and freedom for all individuals in the Baltic region remains a most important direction of our efforts," he told a meeting of 11 foreign ministers from the Baltic Sea region in the north German city of Hamburg.

"Unfortunately, I have to state that the pace of improvement of the human rights situation in some countries of the region remains low," he said.

Russians travelling with Ivanov suggested he was referring to Latvia and Estonia which have big Russian-speaking minorities. They have given citizenship only to those ethnic Russians who lived in the countries before 1940 when they were annexed and absorbed into the Soviet Union.

This excludes most Russian speakers who arrived in the post-war Soviet period.

Speaking at a news conference, Ivanov said Estonia, where there were 100,000 Russian Orthodox believers, had refused to register the Moscow patriarchy. "This is nothing but religious discrimination," he said.

The third ex-Soviet Baltic nation Lithuania, which has far fewer Russian-speakers, has given everyone citizenship and enjoys better relations with Moscow.
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