The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed deep regret in connection with "technical" non-prolongation of OSCE missions mandates in Latvia and Estonia, which worked there since 1993. Statement to this effect was made by the Russian foreign policy department on December 21. The statement stresses that "an effective mechanism of international monitoring over the fulfillment by Estonian and Latvian authorities of their commitments in the sphere of protection of national minorities' rights and over the work of bringing their internal legislation and law-enforcement practice in conformity with world and European standards has been dismantled." The statement underlines that the mandates of the OSCE missions in Latvia and Estonia are far from being fulfilled. Outstanding tasks of ensuring legal rights of the Russian speaking population in these republics in the sphere of education, language policy, social integration, have not been solved. Almost a third of the polulation of Latvia and Estonia are denied citizenship rights, their election, social, cultural and educational rights are being violated, the pace of naturalisation has slown down. "All this does not allow to consider the mandate of the missions complete", the document says. "Moreover, it is noteworthy that the termination of the missions activities occured despite numerous appeals by representatives of the Russian speaking population and their associations". The Foreign Ministry gives a warning that those who contributed to curtailing the permanent OSCE missions in Estonia and Latvia had assumed great responsibility for the further destiny of the Russian-speaking population in these republics. "There can be no double standards in such a sensitive area as human rights protection", the statement reads. The ministry expressed concern over the fact that the so-called technical closure of the missions was done in violation of existing OSCE procedures, without the consensus decision of the Permanent Council. Thus a precedent is made which can negatively affect the OCSE humanitarian activities. The work of other OSCE missions is thus called in question. "The Russian side is fully determined to go on with its efforts to protect the rights and interests of its compatriots living in Latvia, Estonia and other countries of the world. This has always been and is a priority of our foreign policy," the Russian Foreign ministry stressed.