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Riga’s Mayor Fined for Posting in Russian on Social Media

The mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs was fined by Latvia’s federal language-regulator for using Russian on the city council’s social media accounts. The country’s State Language Center enforces national language laws regulating the use of Latvian.

On his own Facebook page, where Usakovs has more more than 75,000 followers, the mayor said he only learned about the fine from reporters. In the post he also mocked the State Language Center which administered the fine, saying that it should focus instead on resolving other issues such as what to call Pokemons in Latvian. “That’s about all it’s good for,” Usakovs wrote. The amount of the fine was not reported.

It is not the first time that Usakovs, who is a controversial mayor, makes headlines over language choice. The issue of Russian language has become increasingly contentious in the country where Russians form the largest ethnic minority. In the capital Riga, about half of the population is Russian-speaking. Usakovs, who was born in Latvia to Russian parents, is a fluent Latvian, Russian and English speaker and in 2011 he backed a measure to make Russian the second state language. This, along with his criticism of EU sanctions against Russia has made him a disputed figure in Latvia’s fiercely anti-Russian political landscape.

Read more about Latvia’s mayor at the Guardian.