Thursday 27 July 2017

Putin's cynical land-grabbing terrifies Russia's neighbours

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Gerard O'Regan

THEY work in our coffee shops and restaurants, in construction and finance, in health and education, and in sundry other jobs. A growing number are self-employed and have started their own businesses. They comprise the bulk of those who stayed on living here after the great wave of immigration to Ireland had dried up following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.

But for the thousands of Ireland-based Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians, these are worrying times. Back home, the Big Bad Boy on the block continues to flex his muscles. The steely gaze of Vladimir Putin is particularly chilling these days. If you happen to be from a country which borders Russia, expecting the worst but hoping for the best might, as always, be as good a policy as any. All too recent memories of Russian domination still casts a shadow on the lives of those from the Baltic states now making their way in Dublin and other locations around Ireland.

Some experts warn that Latvia could be next in the firing line. It is estimated that a third of its two million-plus population is Russian. Putin has made it clear that following the demise of the Soviet Union, he regards these people as exiles who must be returned to the care of the motherland. As he sees it, this is a wrong which must be righted. The big question is just how tough will he fight to get his way?

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