Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 64

Movement for the Neutrality of Latvia” surfaced yesterday in Riga with a sizeable picket in front of the Council of Ministers building. Parliamentary deputies of the leftist, mostly Russian grouping “For Human Rights in a United Latvia” had requested the permit for the picket and attended the event. The crowd of approximately 100 typified the generational mix of elderly diehards and young radicals observed at pro-Moscow rallies in Latvia. Participants expressed support for Serbia, denounced the United States and NATO, and urged the Latvian government to stop supporting the policy of the alliance. The new movement’s manifesto called for “an end to the effort to join NATO, which the ruling parties have set as their aim.”

Parliamentary deputy Aleksandr Bartashevich was identified as leader of the Movement for Neutrality; his colleague Tatyana Zhdanok also took an active part in the event. Both had been prominent in the pro-Soviet movement which opposed Latvian independence in 1988-1991 under human rights slogans (see The Monitor, February 16).

“For Human Rights in a United Latvia” is a coalition of leftist and eastern-oriented groups. Its figurehead leader is Janis Jurkans, who was foreign minister in the wake of the restoration of Latvia’s independence. During the 1998 pre-electoral campaign, Jurkans promised that he would distance himself from that coalition if it comes out openly against Latvia’s goal of joining NATO. The unreconstructed communist leader Alfreds Rubiks is co-chairman of this self-styled human rights movement.