The Socialist party and the Equal Rights (Ravnopravye) movement — successors, respectively, of Latvia’s Communist party and the Interfront — organized a rally in downtown Riga yesterday against "human rights violations." Some 2,000 Russians, mostly of pension age, participated. The rally ended peacefully despite heated rhetoric, which was then played back by Moscow media. Demands this time focused on "stopping passport terror" — that is, the Latvian government’s decision to cease recognizing the validity of USSR passports as foreign travel documents this year. The same groups had been behind the March 3 rally which touched off Moscow’s current anti-Latvian campaign. (Russian agencies, NTV, March 31)
The Latvian government has postponed this step several times in recent years. Last week, it granted yet another reprieve until July for some categories of USSR passport holders and until October for other categories. Local Russian organizations seem, however, to be seeking an open-ended extension. At the moment they demand a further prolongation until the year 2000. Prime Minister Guntars Krasts commented that repeated extensions of the Soviet passports’ validity works against the goal of "integrating" the Russian population in Latvian society. (BNS, March 31)
Lukin For Incremental Sanctions Against Latvia.