Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 147

At a congress held over the weekend in Riga, the Ravnopravye {Equal Rights} movement resolved to become a political party and to apply for legal registration in that new capacity. As a major new element, the political platform now officially opposes Latvia’s accession to the European Union and to NATO. It retains the organization’s familiar demands for rapid mass naturalization of "Russian-speaking" settlers of the Soviet era, full entitlement for non-citizens of Latvia to participate in privatization and own property, and state guarantees for Russian-language higher education. (BNS, July 28)

Ravnopravye is the successor to the Communist Interfront which opposed Latvian (and Baltic) independence during the USSR’s final years. Until recently it worked closely with the Socialist party, comprised mostly of Russian Communists and holding five parliamentary seats — a number which would have been far higher, had the Russian population been naturalized en masse. The party split recently, and two of its deputies helped launch the new party. The decision to oppose Latvia’s accession to the EU and NATO jibes with Moscow’s policy. The new party’s emergence also suggests that Moscow prefers to work through a group less discredited than the Socialist party, particularly after most Russian citizens resident in Latvia voted for Communist Gennady Zyuganov in Russia’s recent presidential election.

Lazarenko Affirms (Hedged) Western Orientation.