RIGA - Latvia should forget the word "occupation," and then its relations with Russia will improve considerably, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin told the Neatkariga daily in an interview last week.
Yeltsin said that journalists more than politicians blamed Russia. "You are blaming Russia for Latvia's occupation. Do you have any brain? Are you able to look at things in an objective way? Where was Russia at that time? There was no Russia. There was the Soviet Union. There was this monster. The Soviet Communist regime, which we were all fighting," said Yeltsin.
He added that, like in Latvia, forces within Russia were also fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s, therefore he does not understand why "all of a sudden Russia is blamed for the occupation."
"What occupation, please explain it to me? I beg you to exclude this word from your language. Television, newspapers, magazinesâ€¦. Exclude the word 'occupation,' and you will improve our mutual relations," Yeltsin said. "I am absolutely sure about it. By mentioning the word 'occupation,' you annoy the Russian people who have nothing to do with it."
The former president added that he did not understand Latvia's attitude toward Russians. "War veterans forbidden to wear orders 's it is some kind of hatred. It does not go with an independent and solid country, but Latvia now is a significant force, especially in Europe. I know it, and I understand politics," he said.
Yeltsin described his visit to Latvia as "very successful," especially meeting with the president and the prime minister. Once he returns to Moscow, Yeltsin said he would inform Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has very good relations, about his visit to Latvia.
"Knowing my authority and good relations with Putin, I will tell him all about my trip, and that Latvia wishes to solve the relationship issue. I think that our bilateral relations will move on," he said.
During Yeltsin's three-day visit to Latvia, he met with top governmental officials and received the state's highest honor, the Tristar Order, for his contribution in restoring Latvia's independence.