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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvia Premier to Visit Russia In Bid to Thaw Icy Relations

RIGA, Latvia -- Latvian Prime Minister Andris Shkele will visit Russia next month for talks with Russia's Viktor Chernomyrdin intended to improve relations, Shkele's office said Friday.

Latvia regained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, but relations with its huge neighbor have been strained.

Russia, which ruled Latvia for most of the last 200 years, accuses it of discrimination against its large Russian minority, and the two still have a border dispute.

Russia has also been angered by the efforts of Latvia and fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania to joint NATO.

Shkele's office said Chernomyrdin invited the Latvian premier to Moscow at the start of September.

"The Russian premier ... stated his conviction that the time had come to step up relations between both states, at first on the level of the intergovernmental commission," Shkele's office said in a statement.

The formation of the commission was agreed at the end of 1994 to discuss bilateral issues but has never met.

Moscow was angered by Latvian laws which left most of its 700,000 Russian-speakers without citizenship.

Latvia says most of its Russian residents are Soviet-era immigrants who need to undergo formal naturalization.