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Monument to occupation. Saeima of Latvia allows taking down the main Soviet monument in Riga

The Saeima of Latvia has approved the law removing any legal restrictions for the country to decapitate the monument to the liberators of Riga.

Over Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the parliament has also suspended Article 13 of the Protocol to the Agreement between the governments of the Republic of Latvia and the Russian Federation on the social protection of the military pensioners of the Russian Federation and their family members living in the territory of the Republic of Latvia.

The statement on the Saeima website indicates that the bilateral agreement with Russia on memorial buildings and monuments is terminated.

Quote"Russia is purposefully deepening the association between the Russian Federation of today and the Soviet Union—both the rhetoric by state officials and the informative space are full of attempts to justify the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine by the need to eradicate fascism and prevent genocide," said Rihards Kols, Chair of the Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee, who is responsible for advancing the Draft Law in the Saeima.

According to Mr. Kols, the shift in geopolitics and international practices means that "Latvia cannot and will not be obligated to maintain such buildings as Soviet occupation monuments".

At the same time, Latvia will continue to honor its international commitments regarding burials and cemeteries.

The Saeima views this radical decision as a counter-measure of the international community, namely Latvia, in response to Russia’s actions against Ukraine. The description of the Draft Law prepared by the Saeima commission points out that Moscow should be encouraged to stop violating international law and compensate for the violations in full.

The Agreement article shall be terminated from May 16, 2022, and until Russia stops violating international law regarding Ukraine, that is until it withdraws its Armed Forces from the territory of Ukraine and fully restores the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine under the international law.

Monument to occupation

Thus, the Saeima has eliminated legal barriers to tearing down the memorial complex to Soviet Army soldiers and Liberators of Riga located in the Victory Park in the center of the Latvian capital.

The memorial complex with a 79-meter stele on the left bank of Daugava, previously officially called the Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders, was opened in 1985.

The discussion over what should be done with the 9th of May and the Victory Monument in Riga has been going on for over 30 years. An attempt to blow the monument up was made in 1997. Over the years the discussion turned into a fight between two radical sides. The owners of Russian passports view it as a symbol of victory over Nazism. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Latvia used to participate in the May 9 celebrations actively; Russian star concerts were also customary.

For the Latvian-speaking and pro-European community, the memorial has long been a symbol of the occupation of Latvia.

In 2022 the Saeima decided to announce the 9th of May the Memorial Day for the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine. An exhibition dedicated to the atrocities of the Russian army in Ukraine was organized near the monument. Photos by the largest European agencies in Riga show ruined residential buildings and bodies on the streets of Ukrainian cities and towns, such as Bucha, Mariupol, and Kharkiv.

All entertainment events and pyrotechnics were prohibited, and the state flags of Latvia on buildings had mourning frames on this day. The Latvian police warned that public gatherings on May 9 would be treated as support of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Let us remind you that on April 22 Latvia approved amendments to the Citizenship Law, providing for deprivation of citizenship for support of the Russian Federation's military aggression in Ukraine.

On April 21 Latvia issued a separate statement declaring Russia’s military crimes in Ukraine a genocide. Similar resolutions were adopted by the Parliaments of Lithuania, Estonia, and Canada.

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