Lithuania hails Latvia's "no" vote on Russian language

20th February 2012, Comments 0 comments

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius on Monday hailed Latvian voters' rejection of Russian as a second state language in a weekend referendum, saying it showed "high maturity" in the fellow Baltic state.

Latvia along with neighbours Lithuania and Estonia, experienced so-called "Russification" during nearly nearly five decades of Soviet rule making language a sensitive issue during their two decades of independence.

"The Lithuanian government and Lithuanian people express support for Latvia's unity," Kubilius said in a Monday statement.

"Latvian voters, by firmly rejecting the proposal to give Russian the status of a state language have demonstrated the high maturity of their civic society and self-awareness," the Lithuanian premier added.

Saturday's Russian-minority sponsored referendum was headed for almost certain defeat even before Latvian leaders hailed results showing a 75 percent "no" vote as proof of their country's formal break with its past.

Latvia, Lithuania and the fellow Baltic state of Estonia were annexed by Soviet Union during the World War II and often flaunted their suspicions of Russian settlers in the subsequent decades.

But the tensions are much sharper in Latvia, where Russians make up 27 percent of two million-strong population, compared with five percent in Lithuania, a nation of three million.

The three Baltic states, which joined the EU and the NATO Western military alliance in 2004, have had rocky ties with Moscow since they regained independence in 1991.

© 2012 AFP

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