Riga Duma bans picket against introduction of Latvian-language teaching in Russian schools

The Duma of Riga has banned a picket scheduled for May 23rd against the introduction of teaching in the Latvian language at Russian schools from September 1st.

The request for arranging the picket was submitted by the Latvian association for support of schools with teaching in Russian. According to the request, about 5,000 were going to take part in the protest on May 23rd. The participants intended to hand the president, government and parliament an address titled "For the Free Choice of a Teaching Language!" that had already been signed by over 30,000 people who do not agree with the planned school reform.

The Duma explained its decision with the conclusion of the state security services pointing out that law-enforcement structures "will have difficulty guaranteeing public security and ensuring rights and freedoms of other people ahead of the Eurovision contest." Latvian Education and Science Minister Karlis Sadurskis also spoke against the protest. "This action aims at splitting society and spoiling Latvia's image internationally," he believes.

Political observers explain the Duma's decision to ban the picket of Russian-speaking schoolchildren, teachers and parents with the fact that several thousands of foreign tourists and journalists are to arrive in Riga for the Eurovision contest due on May 24th. The Latvian authorities do not want foreign guests to witness domestic political problems, especially those related to Russian schools, observers believe.

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