June 3, 2015 / 4:09 PM / 3 years ago

Defense minister voted in as Latvia's next president

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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