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26 Sep, 2023 19:54

EU state to arrest drivers over Russian language car ‘stickers’

Latvian police have threatened to detain individuals sporting 'controversial' decals on their vehicles
EU state to arrest drivers over Russian language car ‘stickers’

Latvian drivers may be detained and even charged for putting Russian-language bumper stickers on their vehicles, the country’s state police agency revealed in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday.  

In response to photo posts by several Latvians complaining about cars with bumper stickers in Russian, the official account of the Latvian Police posted a statement warning that “potentially provocative inscriptions in Russian” were not allowed on vehicles given the “current geopolitical situation.” 

Drivers who dared to sport such decals on their cars can be questioned, detained, and even charged with the administrative offense of “glorifying military aggression or war crimes” if they do not immediately remove the offending sticker and explain both their reason for possessing it and their intention in displaying it, according to the statement.  

The police also encouraged Latvians to inform on their neighbors by calling a hotline if they spot such stickers.  

Based on the account’s posting history, anything in Russian can potentially be seen as provocative. Banned stickers include “я – русский” (“I am Russian”), “СИЛА В ПРАВДЕ” (“power is in the truth”), and anything featuring bears.  

Following the adoption of EU-wide sanctions prohibiting the entry of Russian-registered vehicles into the 27-country bloc earlier this month, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania began turning away all vehicles with Russian license plates from their borders. Moscow has responded to the sanctions with threats to recall diplomats from Brussels and impose similar restrictions on European traffic. 

Last year, Latvia banned the public display of the letters Z and V, claiming that their use by Russian troops in the Ukraine conflict constituted glorification of war crimes and military aggression. Latvians who wantonly display the last letter of the Roman alphabet – which does not exist in the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia – in public can be fined up to €400, while companies can be charged as much as €3,200. The former Soviet republic also forbade holding public events within 200 meters of any monument commemorating the Soviet Army. 

The law was adopted following Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba’s call for all nations to “criminalize” using the letter, calling its continued use equivalent to support for Russian “barbarism.” Latvia was the first to comply, though Lithuania and Estonia followed suit less than a month later, also banning the black and orange St. George’s ribbon displayed on Soviet victory medals.  

While the country has long had laws on the books forbidding the glorification of Nazism and Communism, hundreds gather annually to honor the country’s Nazi collaborators without police interference.