Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at Latvia amid a persistent dispute over a border treaty, repeating that Moscow will not consider ceding any territory to the small Baltic country.
Reaching into Soviet-era satire for a colorful jibe - his latest in a war of words with the neighboring state - Putin warned that if Latvia presses any territorial demands it will get not land but "a dead donkey's ears."
"We will never conduct negotiations based on even a discussion of any territorial claims," Putin said in televised comments during a visit to the offices of a Russian newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Tension between Russia and Latvia escalated during this month's celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, with world politicians weighing in with starkly differing views of the war and the decades-long Soviet occupation of the Baltics.
The two countries had been expected to sign a border treaty the day after the celebrations, but Moscow balked after the Latvian government issued a declaration that Russian authorities fear is designed to leave Russia open to territorial and other claims.
Latvia has said it won't make any territorial claims, but the tension persists.
Putin said Monday that, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia "made a sacrifices unprecedented in the history of humanity in order to avoid a Yugoslav-style scenario in the former Soviet space, giving away tens of thousands of square kilometers of its territory."
He said claims today that "somebody owes somebody else five kilometers" were "absolutely unacceptable" and were aimed to spoil relations, not actually regain lost territory.
Naming a piece of land he suggested Latvia wants, around the Russian town of Pytalovo, Putin said that if its government makes territorial demands, they will receive "not the Pytalovo district but a dead donkey's ears."
That's an expression used by the main character in "The 12 Chairs," a 1920s satirical novel by the authors Ilf and Petrov that has become part of the Russian cultural vernacular.
Latvia's foreign minister said last week that Latvia would not seek restitution for the land around Pytalovo, which belonged to Latvia until the Soviet government redistributed it to Russia in 1944.
Putin took aim at Latvia during a news conference in Moscow following a Russia-European Union summit on May 10 - the day the two nations had been expected to sign the border treaty.
He accused its government of "political demagoguery," and said making territorial claims while simultaneously seeking a border treaty was "complete nonsense and rubbish," using an expression that literally means "soft-boiled boots."
STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press
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