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11 May, 2009 05:16

Putin, Medvedev, and Lavrov in Latvia's Parliament?

A new Latvian party boasts the namesakes of Russia's top politicians president Medvedev, PM Putin, and FM Lavrov, hoping it will help it succeed.

It seems a debate about politics in Latvia just cannot do without mentioning this Baltic state’s relations with its big neighbour Russia.

“We used to export a lot of fish, seafood, and meat to Russia. We have an ecologically clean nature. But now, as economic crisis grips our country, we’re not using Russia’s huge market. And all this because of poor political ties,” asserts Yury Zhuravlev from the Za Rodinu party.

But if there’s one person who has a lot to say on the dispute – it's Mr. Putin. Yes, you heard it right. Vadim Putin is a Latvian of Russian descent who bears the same surname as Russia’s Prime Minister. And he says this gives him just enough motivation to go into politics.

“Whenever relations between Latvia and Russia start to warm, some third party appears out of nowhere and spoils it. Since Latvia went sovereign, we have seen all the same faces in politics, and they are to blame for poor ties with Moscow. I’m here to change that,” proclaims party member Vadim Putin.

Vadim Putin now joins one rather famous company of Russia’s President Medvedev, Foreign Minister Lavrov, Finance Minister Kudrin, and even legendary Russian war general Alexander Suvorov. Namesakes of famous Russians, all Latvian citizens, have been included into the election list of a leftist political force Za Rodinu, which means For the Motherland.

“We want these names to attract attention. In 18 years of Latvia’s independence, not a single Russian president has visited our country, for some reason. And there are many issues for him to address in Latvia. We believe our namesakes can deliver this message better,” states party member Sergey Zhuravlev.

The party says it represents the interests of ethnic Russians, a part of Latvia’s population that makes up almost a third, around 700,000. Ever since this Baltic state turned independent, all pro-Russian movements have been in opposition. The party relates that with what it calls the anti-Russian policy of Latvia’s ruling class.

Some have already criticized the party for such a PR stunt, but its leadership says that in politics, these methods are good as long as they are effective. Besides, in Latvia with its 2 million population, a third of it has a lot to fight for.

One of the party’s big guns, academician-surgeon Viktor Kalnberz, says that’s why he joined the movement. The acclaimed surgeon was the first to perform a sex change operation in the USSR. Viktor hopes his authority would persuade the population of the need for change.

“I have faced injustice and cruelty here. All my ancestors are Latvian, but I was denied citizenship here when Latvia became independent. That is because of my professional ties with Moscow. I’m not Russian, but I want to fight for the rights of all minorities here – Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians,” says Kalnberz.

The party starts with elections to the capital Riga’s city council. Then it is planning to have a go at the country’s parliament – the Seim. The party’s leader says all of their previous attempts to get into power have been a failure because of what he calls rigged votes – something the Latvian namesakes of Putin, Medvedev, and Lavrov hope will not happen on June 6th when Riga goes to the polling stations.