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28 May, 2022 19:17

NATO could be asked to blow up Soviet memorial – mayor

Latvia is searching for ways to reduce the costs of demolishing the massive structure in Riga
NATO could be asked to blow up Soviet memorial – mayor

The Riga authorities are weighing different – including the most extreme – options to demolish a World War II monument in the city, the Latvian capital’s vice mayor, Vilnis Kirsis, said on Friday. Asked by local media whether the city council was considering the idea of letting “NATO troops, our military” blow up the monument, Kirsis confirmed that the option was not off the table.

“The idea has been floated in the public. We are considering all possible methods, including the ones you mentioned. We would not like to disclose this in order to avoid possible provocations,” the official stated.

The memorial, officially known as the ‘Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders’ is set to be demolished by November 15. While the exact cost of the demolition works has not yet been established, estimates reach up to a massive €2 million, and the Riga authorities are already seeking to pare down expenses. 

The monument to the liberators of Riga has long been targeted by Latvian nationalists, who have for decades been calling for it – and other Soviet-era landmarks – to be removed. The drive against such monuments was reinvigorated by the military operation launched by Russia against Ukraine in late February.

The memorial also became the centerpiece of a controversy around this year’s May 9 celebrations. The Latvian authorities declared the date – when Victory Day is celebrated in Russia and a number of other countries – a day of mourning for those killed or injured in Ukraine. The move prompted thousands of people to defy the ban on commemorating the Soviet victory and come to the monument to lay flowers, which were bulldozed away shortly thereafter. However, people returned to the site with even more flowers the next day.

Several days later on May 13, Latvia’s parliament overwhelmingly voted to unilaterally renounce a part of a treaty with Russia in which Latvia pledged to protect and maintain war memorials in the country. The next day, Riga’s city legislature approved the demolition of the controversial monument.