Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed on Tuesday a decree simplifying visa requirements for former U.S.S.R. citizens currently residing in Latvia and Estonia and who are without citizenship status.
People holding non-resident passports in Latvia and those holding non-Estonian passports in Estonia will from now on be able to travel to and from Russia without visas.
"Russia's decision to waive visa requirements for Latvia's non-citizens undermines the naturalization process in Latvia and disrupts Russia-EU negotiations. These negotiations cover, among other topics, a general facilitation of visa procedures, not exemptions for certain groups of EU residents," the ministry said in a statement.
Latvia, with a population of 2.3 million, has around 400,000 people without citizenship - mainly former U.S.S.R. citizens who have failed to acquire Latvian passports since 1991. During the 17 years of the republic's independence, about 120,000 people have been naturalized, including 6,826 in 2007.
Non-citizens are not considered stateless persons under Latvian law. Nevertheless, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance refers to Latvian non-citizens as to stateless persons, recommending that Latvia review its naturalization requirements.
Estonia's foreign minister has also criticized Russia's decision, saying it will slow down the naturalization process.
Estonia, with a population of almost 1.5 million, has over 115,000 "non-citizens."
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Image Galleries: Christophe de Margerie: 40 Years With French Oil and Gas Giant
Infographics: Nobel Peace Prize
The 11th Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club: The World Order: New Rules or No Rules?
The opening session entitled The Limits of Governability, or Systemic Failure provided the basis for subsequent discussions and highlighted the most painful issues in contemporary international relations.