Letter: Citizenship in Estonia

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The Independent Online
Sir: The unwillingness of some of Russia's leadership to come to terms with the loss of empire was again portrayed in the attempt to prevent Estonia's entry into the Council of Europe, reported by Andrew Marshall ('Russia resists Estonia joining human rights body', 13 May).

In becoming members of the Council of Europe, the Baltic countries are regaining their rightful place in Europe, denied them after half a century of illegal annexation by the Soviet Union.

The level of our compliance with human rights norms and respect for minorities is being recognised. We have confidence in and are ready to embrace the standards for human rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

While supporting the democratic processes in Russia, we reject the unsubstantiated and highly politicised allegations concerning the treatment of Russian minorities - who largely consist of former Soviet military personnel and their families - being made against Estonia and Latvia by some of Russia's leadership. In particular, where the Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev refers to the deprivation of citizenship, we would make two points.

First, the only citizenship being 'deprived' is one that was previously forced upon the inhabitants of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, namely, Soviet citizenship.

Second, under international law, questions of citizenship are for individual states to decide upon and are, in any event, separate from questions of human rights.

Following the granting of membership to Estonia and Lithuania last week, we trust that after Latvia's elections on 5 and 6 June, the Council of Europe will move speedily in admitting Latvia.

Yours faithfully,

RIIVO SINIJARV

Ambassador

The Embassy of the Republic of Estonia

London, SW7

19 May

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