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Estonia Extends Old Soviet Passports for Ethnic Russians

Tallinn, July 12 (RFE/RL) - Estonia's Interior Ministry says authorities in the Baltic republic have extended the validity of old Soviet passports of ethnic Russians up to November 30. The validity of the old Soviet passport was to have expired today.

Interior Ministry spokesman Rein Milistver said that under the new regulation, non-Estonian citizens legally living in the country will have a special stamp in their old Soviet passport, making it valid until the end of November.

Estonia's estimated 300,000 ethnic Russians had earlier called today "Black Friday," as - without a valid passport - they would have been unable to return to Estonia if they traveled abroad

Since Estonia achieved independence in 1991, its citizenship laws have strained relations with Russia. Moscow accuses Estonia of discriminating against its large Russian-speaking minority. Estonia requires an Estonian-language test and loyalty oath for citizenship. It rules out dual citizenship.

There are some 350,000 people without citizenship in Estonia, including Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians and Finns.