Former USSR member seeks Russian language ban in blow to Putin

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Latvia, a former member of the Soviet Union that shares a border with Russia, may decide to restrict the Russian language in workplaces in the near future in a potential jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Deputy Prime Minister country minister.

Janis Bordans, who is also Latvia’s justice minister, told the Delfi news site in an article on Saturday that the justice ministry was working on the bilingualism restriction law. He said that “the long-term consequences of Russification are such that the practice of simultaneous use of Latvian and Russian in daily communication, places of service and workplaces has taken root”, according to a English translation of his remarks.

Ongoing legislation indicates that Latvia could move further away from Russia and its past as part of the larger USSR, whose fall left more than 25 million ethnic Russians living outside their home country. , according to the Washington, DC-based Wilson Center. Such a distance could be a loss for Putin after reports by the Belarusian state news agency BelTA in April indicated that Putin and a senior ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, were interested in carrying relations between their two countries on a more cooperative level. in a movement reminiscent of the former USSR, and sought to attract more ex-Soviet countries to join them.

The Bilingualism Restriction Law would reduce the presence of the Russian language in the Latvian public sphere. Bordans told Delfi that “society should know that the Latvian language should be used for business dealings, as well as for workplace communication.”

Latvian Justice Minister Janis Bordans takes part in a demonstration in support of Ukraine on April 3 in Daugavpils, a town in southeastern Latvia whose population is predominantly Russian-speaking. Latvia, a former member of the Soviet Union that shares a border with Russia, could decide to restrict the Russian language in the near future in a potential jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Bordans.
Gints Ivuskans/AFP via Getty Images

The law could exclude the Russian language from phone and bank messages, as well as impact job postings that require knowledge of Russian or give an advantage to Russian-speaking applicants, he said.

“It is necessary to establish a ban on the use of a language that is not the language of the European Union, in addition to the state language when selling goods or providing services. It is possible that Russian will also be excluded from the telephone and the message bank, Bordans said.

This is not the first time that Latvia has been confronted with the status of the Russian language in its society. In February 2012, a nationwide referendum saw 75% of Latvians vote against adopting Russian as a second official language, the BBC reported.

Despite this overwhelming opposition, restrictions on the Russian language could impact much of the country. About 25% of Latvia’s population is predominantly Russian-speaking, Politico reported.

Latvia, which unlike Russia is a member of both the European Union and NATO, has vehemently criticized Putin’s Ukrainian invasion. Latvian President Egils Levits strongly condemned Russia’s ongoing war and remained a staunch supporter of Ukraine.

Levites Noted on Twitter on Saturday that Latvia stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens after Russia invaded Ukraine, and said it is “not politically and morally justifiable” for other European countries to continue to do.

Days before Bordans spoke in Delfi about possible Russian language restrictions, Latvia’s parliament, called Saeima, passed a statement acknowledging Russia’s alleged violence against Ukrainian civilians as “terrorism” and designating Russia as a State supporting terrorism.

The Saeima also called on other EU countries to immediately stop issuing tourist and entry visas to Russian and Belarusian citizens.

Newsweek contacted Bordans and the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

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