June 3, 2015 / 4:09 PM / in 2 years

Defense minister voted in as Latvia's next president

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini (L) and Latvia's Minister of Defence Raimonds Vejonis pose for media before the European Union Ministers of Defence informal meeting in Riga February 18, 2015.Ints Kalnins

RIGA (Reuters) - The Latvian parliament chose a new president on Wednesday who is an outspoken critic of Russian actions over Ukraine and a supporter of a greater NATO presence in the Baltics.

Raimonds Vejonis, currently serving as defense minister, will begin his four-year presidential term in July. His main responsibilities will be to select a candidate for prime minister when a new government is formed and to initiate the dissolution of parliament.

Vejonis, 49, is a member of the centre-right Green Party and has been defense minister since early 2014. He said last month that safeguarding the security of Latvia, a former Soviet republic and home to a Russian-speaking minority, would be the paramount aim of his presidency.

Vejonis became minister shortly before Russia annexed Crimea and pro-Russian fighters launched a rebellion in eastern Ukraine, developments that worried many voters in tiny Latvia, which is a NATO member.

Reporting by Gederts Gelzis; editing by Niklas Pollard and Katharine Houreld

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