Russian ambassador to EU Vladimir Chizhov (photo YouTube)
Russian ambassador to EU Vladimir Chizhov has said Russia will protect the rights of Russian speaking minorities in the Baltics.
Speaking to New Europe Online, the diplomat said relations between the Baltics and Russia were 'artificially tense' and called for more rights for Russian speaking minorities in the region.
"When we refer to protecting Russian speakers, we mean that by political, diplomatic and moral means, by promoting Russian language, Russian culture, by drawing the attention of the European Union, of the Council of Europe to fix the deficiencies, we are defending their rights," Mr Chizhov says in the video interview below.
"But it doesn't’t mean that Russian tanks will roll into all the countries with Russian speakers, of whom are many in all parts of the world."
Baltic officials have called for permanent NATO bases in what they see as a threat from Russia amid the crisis in the Ukraine.
Speaking in Tallinn on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said NATO was 'unwavering' in its defense of the Baltic states.
NATO planes and troops continue to hold war games in the Baltics whilst key NATO officials mull over new defense plans for the region in Wales today and tomorrow.
Chizhov, however, said the Baltics should grant more rights to Russian speakers in the Baltics
"They have been neglecting their own minorities for over twenty years, actually mistreating them," he said.
"You know, when the Soviet Union was collapsing, the three Baltic Republics organized referenda which led to their independence, and everybody voted, including the ethnic Russians. I would even say that the majority of Russians there voted for independence. But then the Baltic governments said: “Okay, we don’t need you anymore. You can pack and go.” Even today, the seats allocated to those countries in the European Parliament are counted on the basis of the overall population, though the Russian-speaking minorities are deprived of voting rights."
Watch the video below