Latvia slams Russia for claims minister is prejudiced

12th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Latvia slammed Moscow Friday for calling its foreign minister prejudiced against the Baltic state's Russian-speaking minority, saying the Kremlin should not rely on erroneous media reports.

"We invite Russia's foreign ministry in the future to professionally and correctly base its comments on information provided by the Latvian government and its representatives," Latvian foreign ministry spokesman Janis Silis said in a statement.

"Moscow's official reaction to several unproven publications and its readiness to comment on them is surprising," he added.

Girts Valdis Kristovskis, who only became foreign minister last week, has been forced to fight off allegations of xenophobia.

They arose after the publication of an email exchange with a US-based Latvian doctor who said ethnic Russians should leave the country and called for the creation of separate clinics for ethnic Latvians.

The doctor also called for the repeal of a border treaty ratified in 2007 that left Russia with a swathe of territory which used to belong to Latvia before World War II.

Kristovskis rejected the allegations and claimed he has been set-up.

On Tuesday, he survived a no-confidence vote in parliament piloted by the left-wing opposition, which is rooted among Russian-speakers who make up 27 percent of Latvia's 2.2 million people.

The Kristovskis case has received broad coverage in Russia, and Moscow said it went "beyond the bounds of common sense," Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

"We expect that the Latvian minister, who has retained his office not without difficulty due to the scandal, in real life to follow not his prejudices but the Latvian government's proclaimed policy of building good neighbourly relations with Russia," a top-ranking Moscow official was quoted as saying by the agency.

Russia and Latvia have had rocky ties since the Baltic state broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 after five decades under Moscow's rule.

© 2010 AFP

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