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Putin urges EU to pay attention to Russian speakers' rights in Baltics

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he hopes that the European Union will start paying proper attention to what he described as major violations of the rights of Russian-speaking residents in the Baltic countries.

Moscow will work persistently with that in mind, he said.

"We are in dialogue with our partners in the EU, and I hope they will be eventually ashamed that they allow such major violations of the rights of people who live in the territory of the EU, while talking about human rights violations outside the EU," Putin said according to Interfax during a questions and answers session when asked to take measures in connection with encroachments on the rights of Russians living in Latvia.

"It is a situation where they worry about a speck in their friend's eye when they have a log in their own. However, we will continue persistent work on that track, but in a such a way as not to hurt those who are in these territories, who live in these countries," Putin said.

He said that Russia is constantly pointing out to the governments of the Baltic states, including Latvia, that the rights of Russians living there are being violated. "It is hard to imagine that thousands of people can be declared non-citizens in modern civilized society. There is no such category, international law does not envisage such a category," Putin said.

There are citizens, people with double citizenship, and stateless persons, "but there has never been such a concept as non-citizens," Interfax quoted Putin as saying. "It was invented in the Baltic states. It was invented to limit the lawful rights of the people who live in those territories," the president said.

The methods that Russia should use to protect its fellow countrymen "should be such as not to aggravate their situation," he said.

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