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10 May, 2024 10:47

EU states arrest people for celebrating WW2 victory over Nazis

Authorities in Latvia and Germany took issue with individuals displaying Soviet and Russian symbols on May 9
EU states arrest people for celebrating WW2 victory over Nazis

Latvian police apprehended 19 people across the country for displaying banned Soviet and Russian symbols during Victory Day celebrations on May 9 – the date when WWII commemorative ceremonies were traditionally held in the Soviet Union. Similar scenes played out in Berlin.

Jauns media outlet, citing the Latvian police, reported that the authorities had launched two criminal probes into the “justification of genocide, crime against peace, and war crimes.”

One man was reportedly detained for “listening to music loudly” at Salaspils Memorial, the site of a Nazi concentration camp near Riga. RT Russian, citing an eyewitness, said that the man was listening to a popular Soviet song, ‘Zhuravli’ (Cranes), which was written in the late 1960’s and devoted to the fallen soldiers of WWII.

Among other violations detected by Latvian officers throughout the country were attempts to lay flowers at the sites of dismantled war memorials as well as cars featuring Soviet symbols.

Elsewhere in Europe, a group of bikers donning t-shirts and vests with the ‘Night Wolves’ biker club insignia arrived at Treptower Park in Berlin on Thursday, where a major Soviet war memorial is situated. According to Bild, there was a heavy police presence at the site, with officers checking people for forbidden symbols and attire that included historic military uniforms and the ribbon of Saint George. The media outlet reported that a total of ten people were detained for various offenses. The article claimed that some people managed to smuggle banned items through the police cordons, with some reportedly also insulting officers.

Commenting on the Berlin authorities’ ban during a press briefing on Wednesday in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described it as yet another manifestation of Western “cancel culture.”

“They are also banning the songs that Red Army soldiers were singing as they liberated Berlin... Is that normal?” the diplomat inquired. Zakharova added that such bans are the true face of “liberal democracy.”

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman urged Berlin authorities to rescind the restrictions and to “stop rewriting history.”

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were once all constituent Soviet socialist republics of the USSR, but this period of their history is now officially regarded there as having been a foreign occupation; as a result, there are laws in place making most Soviet symbols off-limits. The three Baltic states have removed a number of WWII memorials since declaring independence in 1991.

Since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, a number of other European countries have imposed similar restrictions, also covering numerous Russia-related symbols. These include the flags of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as the Latin letters Z and V, which have come to symbolize Moscow’s military campaign against Ukraine. The ribbon of Saint George – a popular symbol of Victory Day celebrations in Russia in recent years – is also banned in a number of European nations.