Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Veshnyakov created a new wave of concern in Latvia with recent remarks saying it may soon become easier for ethnic Russians in Latvia to obtain Russian citizenship.

Mr. Veshnyakov told Latvian Radio 4, a Russian-language public broadcasting channel, that proposed legislation in Russia would allow granting Russian citizenship to ethnic Russians in Latvia to “save the Latvian noncitizens out of poverty by giving them citizenship and a pension without having to stay in Russia.” Russians constitute 27.6% of Latvia’s population of 2 million, the largest ethnic group among the minorities living in Latvia.

The comments come as many in the three Baltic nations—part of the former Soviet Union—have expressed fears about being the target of possible Russian expansionism. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—all members of NATO and the European Union—have been working to forge economic ties with Europe by joining the euro zone while also scrambling to lessen dependence on Russian energy.