Riga to host all-Latvian congress of Russian school advocates

An all-Latvian congress of Russian school defenders will be held in Riga today.

The congress agenda includes the discussion of Latvian authorities-conducted reform of ethnic minority schools, which provides that September 1, 2004, no less than 60% of curriculum subjects will be taught in the state language, i.e. Lettish, in senior grades of high schools of ethnic minorities, including Russian ones.

Four documents are to be adopted at the congress - two appeals to the Lettish people and international organizations, as well as two resolutions - on the authority of a group to negotiate with the authorities, elected at the congress, and on further protest actions.

In the organizers' words, a large number of foreign guests will attend the congress, including representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Europarliament, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Russian parliamentarians and politicians voiced their intention to participate in the work of the congress.

It was supposed that Russian State Duma deputy, deputy head of the PACE political committee Dmitry Rogozin will speak at the congress too. However, the Latvian authorities denied him visa, substantiating their decision by the fact that this well-known Russian politician "repeatedly accused the Latvian government of violating the rights of Russian-speaking people, threatened with economic sanctions," thus demonstrating his unwillingness to "develop constructive dialogue" with the Latvian authorities.

The congress is held by the headquarters of Russian school defenders established a year ago. Representatives of most Russian public organizations, as well as the political association "For Human Rights in United Latvia" make part of it.

More than 4,000 delegates and guests are to participate.

Delegates of over 100 Russian schools from some 30 Latvian cities, who represent over 90% of all those who study in Russian will attend the congress, said Yuri Petropavlovsky of the Russian school defenders' HQ. 40% of the delegates are schoolchildren, 40% - their parents, 10% - teachers and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, he added.

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