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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvian Law Hits Russian Immigrants

Russia has said that a new Latvian law on citizenship is discriminatory and effectively gives the Baltic republic's large Russian minority no chance of becoming citizens. The law, passed by the Latvian parliament Tuesday, would allow some 230,000 Latvian-born people to become citizens by the end of the century but would severely limit early citizenship prospects for about half a million, mainly Russian, settlers. "The overwhelming majority of ethnic Russians permanently resident in the country are effectively deprived of any real possibility to receive Latvian citizenship," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. It said Latvia had taken a step towards discriminating against hundreds of thousands of residents and was ignoring international experts who have criticized the law. "It is impossible to see this as anything other than an open challenge to the democratic, humanitarian tendencies in contemporary Europe and the whole world," the statement said. Earlier Wednesday, the Latvian government appealed to President Guntis Ulmanis to reject the law and send it back to parliament. A Latvian government statement said the law would threaten the Baltic state's relations with the Council of Europe and with the European Union. Under the new law, 500,000 non-citizens, mainly Russians who came to Latvia after it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, can seek citizenship only after the year 2000. But this would be under a strict quota system. Latvian nationalists say the restrictions are essential to protect their national identity. Soviet-era immigration means ethnic Latvians make up a little over half the population.