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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Council of Europe Head Scolds Latvia

RIGA, Latvia -- The head of Europe's main human rights body said Latvia was discriminating against its large Russian-speaking population by not allowing many of them to vote in local government elections.

"It is a clear case of discrimination when people who are born in a country cannot vote even in local elections," the president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Rene van der Linden, said at a news conference Friday.

Van der Linden said Latvia should work harder to reduce the number of stateless residents, who do not hold the citizenship of any country.

"The Council of Europe cannot accept that 16 percent of the population in a country is stateless," he said.

Russian-speakers make up one-fifth of Latvia's population of 2.3 million.

Van der Linden also visited Estonia, where he said the government was being too slow in giving citizenship to its Russian speakers, who make up one-third of the 1.3 million population.