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Ko dara ar Kremļa politikas piekritējiem Latvijā?

What to do about Kremlin supporters in Latvia?

Less than a thousand of the 40,000 Russian citizens living in Latvia who are eligible to vote turned out for the so-called "elections" of the Russian President, which took place in Riga just a week ago. A large number did not hide their support for Putin. Latvian Television's "De facto" broadcast, aired March 24, tried to find out what has been done to reduce the ranks of war supporters in Latvia.

At the 'elections' officials of the State Border Guard checked whether the voters had a legitimate residency permit to stay in Latvia.

According to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP), four people whose documents were checked at the Russian Embassy are currently facing deportation because their residence permits had expired. LTV found out that they are Russian citizens who did not submit documents to obtain a residence permit as required by the amendments to the Immigration Law. These amendments, adopted in 2022, apply to 24,000 Russian citizens living in Latvia. 

Of the 17,865 Russian citizens who would have to prove their Latvian language skills, 12,780 had registered by the end of last year, but only about half had passed.

State language tests are still ongoing, with 6,414 having passed by March. According to the PMLP, 13,300 Russian citizens have been granted the status of permanent residents of the European Union, and 2,500 citizens have been granted various types of temporary residence permits.  

1,019 Russian citizens have lost the right to stay in Latvia. 200 people are known to have already left.

"There are people who immediately say that yes, they are ready to receive a departure order, but they are still in the process of selling the apartment. And looking at the fact that quite a lot of people have left on their own, it is clear that they did not want to learn the language and [chose] not to have further relations with our country," said Maira Roze, head of the PMLP.

Russian citizens who wish to stay in Latvia must also express their views on Russia's war and occupation of Ukrainian territory by submitting their documents. According to the information provided by the PMLP, around 100 people have not filled in these forms and will therefore be banned from staying in Latvia.

"Yes, many people say, well, how do I answer this, I am not interested in politics. Well, it is clear that the person knows everything, he just does not want to answer," says Roze.

Russian citizens met at the embassy, who were asked to fill in questionnaires and answer who owns Crimea and Donbass, say they did not reveal their real beliefs.

"I lied to get my pension. I'm telling you honestly, that's all," says one woman.

There are people in Latvia who are inclined to support Putin's actions. But there is no single idea on how to deal with these people, apart from security and language checks. 

"We have a developed, digitized Latvian cultural space, now we have to understand how this cultural space will be sustainable. How can we offer it to others here in Latvia? Offer it, not impose an order with some cardboard facades that don't really work, with penalties, with rather, let's say, exclusionary rhetoric. We see that all this is not working, and then the question is whether this whole ball is not also pushing people in Putin's direction," said Deniss Hanovs, a cultural analyst. 

"An example, the education reform. Now everyone will learn Latvian. This is very good. But I haven't heard anyone talking seriously about unified schools. So the idea of minority schools remains. Well, let's say this is a hot potato," says social psychologist Ivars Austers.

According to the State Security Service, since the beginning of the war, on the recommendation of the Service, the Minister of the Interior has placed 79 Russian citizens on the blacklist of foreigners banned from entering and staying in Latvia, 25 of whom were included last year. Some of them have lived in Latvia for a long time. 

The Service has also recorded several cases of Russian propaganda and disinformation aimed at increasing the dissatisfaction of certain sections of the public with the competent Latvian authorities by spreading distorted information about the amendments to the Immigration Law and checks on Russian citizens. 

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