Russian citizen who organized protest to be expelled, Latvian government says

A Latvian court on Monday upheld a government decision to expel a Latvian-born Russian citizen who helped organize protests by Russian-speakers against a law requiring most state school courses to be taught in Latvian.

The government last year expelled Alexander Kazakov to Russia, accusing him of inciting ethnic hatred in the Baltic country. Kazakov appealed the order through his lawyer, but the Latvian Administrative District Court sided with the government and did not consider his claim for 76,000 lats (Ђ108,000; US$139,000) in personal damages.

He helped organize a series of protests last year against a law requiring that at least 60 percent of school classes, including those catering to native Russian-speakers, be taught in Latvian.

Kazakov was born in Latvia but accepted Russian citizenship in the mid-1990s after being denied Latvian citizenship. About half of Latvia's native Russian-speakers are non-citizens, meaning they can live and work in Latvia but cannot hold certain public sector jobs or vote, the AP reports.

Many Russian speakers denounce the language law as discriminatory, a charge shared by Moscow. Latvian officials argue the reform is needed to integrate minorities, help them find jobs and attend public universities, where Latvian is the language of instruction. The European Union, which Latvia joined last year, has said the new school language law conforms to European minority rights standards. AM

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