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20 May, 2010 12:42

Latvia welcomes Russian TV amid nationalist resentment

Latvia is holding a special event dedicated to Russian television in an attempt to promote variety in the media. Meanwhile, some nationalist parties continue their calls to ban Russian broadcasts in the Baltic state.

The hope is that the event could help to heal deep, long-established rifts in relations between Russia and Latvia, which have recently manifested in heated historical debates.

Nil Ushakov, mayor of the Latvian capital Riga, says that Russian-produced TV programs help to establish the influence of Russian culture among the Latvian population, where ethic Russians make up the largest minority group (almost 30 per cent).

This cultural influence is actually helping to heal the differences in the approaches to historical events and problems in bilateral relations,” Ushakov said. “Of course sometimes, not very professional or superficial coverage of very sensitive topics aggravates things, but not too much.”

Head of the Russian TV Academy, Mikhail Shvydkoy, who visited Riga as part of the Russian delegation, expressed optimism about the attitude towards Russia among Latvians.

“Now, as I understand, there has been a lot [of changes] in the Latvian society and a lot [of changes] in the Latvian media, and, of course, now after a long ‘winter’ between Latvia and Russia comes the ‘spring’,” Shvydkoy said. “And I hope this will give a new chance for a more objective point of view among our Latvian colleagues and a different point of view on the Russian TV.”