President Putin (file photo)
2 August 2005 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized two Baltic countries for alleged discrimination against their Russian-speaking minorities.
Putin criticized Latvia and Estonia for language laws that he says make it difficult for Russian speakers to gain citizenship. He made the comments to reporters in Naantali, Finland, after talks with Finnish President Tarja Halonen at the end of a two-day visit.
Halonen dismissed Putin's criticism. She said the issue has been settled in line with European Union requirements. In Latvia, Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks called Putin's comments "ideologically based and hypocritical."
Putin was asked by a reporter whether he would like to continue as president after 2008 when his second term ends. Putin replied: "Maybe I would like that, but our country's constitution does not allow it. I think the most important thing for us in Russia today is stability, which can only be achieved on the basis of the existing law."