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Head of the Russian Election Commission Alexander Veshnyakov has called on the Baltic states to respect the rights of ethnic minorities
"We expect new members of NATO and the EU in the post-Soviet space to prove their respect for the rights of ethnic minorities," the official said on Friday at a round table on the issue of non-citizens' participation in municipal elections. The round table was attended by a group of experts from the Council of Europe. Veshnyakov pointed to "the uncivilized attitude that some of the Russian neighbors have towards a considerable part of their population, whom they call "non-citizens". The official reminded those present that Russians account for 60% of Riga's population, with over a million Russians living in whole Latvia. "Four hundred and fifty thousand of them are considered non-resident and deprived of political rights, including suffrage," the head of the commission underlined. Veshnyakov mentioned that "there is no such term as non-citizens in the humanitarian law nowadays." Referring to Russian legislation he stressed that this term could only mean foreigners dwelling in Russia temporarily or permanently. According to the official, "there are favorable conditions for foreigners to use voting rights at the municipal level." "Foreigners permanently living in the country have a right to vote and be elected to local authorities and participate in local referendums," he said. In this connection, Veshnyakov cited the agreements Russia signed with Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and other CIS countries. Representatives of the presidential administration, the parliament's both chambers, a number of ministries, departments and political parties are taking part in the work of the round table.
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