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Latvians say "no" in Russian language vote

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Latvians say "no" in Russian language vote

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Preliminary results on Saturday showed an overwhelming majority of Latvians had voted “no” in a referendum to decide whether Russian should become the country’s second official language.

Nearly 80 percent of Latvians voted against proposals introduced by a national movement of Russian speakers.

Analysts say the turnout, at nearly 70 percent, indicates the strength of feeling among many ordinary Latvians, who are keen to distance themselves culturally from their former Soviet rulers.

Ethnic Russians who moved to Latvia during the Communist era and their descendants make up about a third of the two million population.

Supporters of the referendum claim Russian speakers are discriminated against.

Around 300,000 Russian speakers were not eligible to vote because, without Latvian language skills, they were unable to apply for citizenship.