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Russian Speakers Protest Language Reform In Latvia

Riga, 5 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Some 6,000 Russian-speaking teenagers and schoolchildren protested today outside Latvia's parliament as lawmakers prepared to adopt a law limiting the use of Russian in the country's schools.

The legislation, expected to pass later today, requires that at least 60 percent of classes in public schools be taught in Latvian, including schools with a majority of Russian-speaking students.

Russian speakers make up about a third of Latvia's population.

The Latvian government has argued that the measure is intended to help integrate minorities and improve their job opportunities, but Latvia's Russian minority and Russia itself say the language reform is discriminatory. Some Latvian officials are demanding that the minister of education and science be sacked over the dispute.