Baltic state demolishes Soviet WWII monument
Workers have started removing a prominent monument to the liberators of Latvia from the Nazis, with at least one excavator and a truck already at the site, as of Tuesday morning.
Earlier, Riga city council decided to demolish the installation despite a number of protests.
Russia’s Zvezda TV reported that the demolition of the WWII Victory Memorial had already begun, with an excavator removing the stairway leading to sculptures depicting three Soviet soldiers.
The city authorities earlier refused to grant permission for a protest by the Latvian Russian Union political party, which the organizers had planned to hold on Monday to denounce the removal of the monument.
According to Latvia’s LSM media outlet, officials cited the “opinion of security services,” as well as the fact that the rally would have taken place in an area “currently cordoned off due to the demolition process.”
In an interview with Latvia’s LTV network last Wednesday, Riga Mayor Martins Stakis said the WWII memorial, once dismantled, will be “sent for recycling.” The official claimed that the “Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has not recognized any part of the monument as artistically valuable.”
Stakis added that a park will be built in place of the memorial.
The Riga City Council passed its decision in May, though calls for the removal of this and other Soviet war memorials have been made in the Baltic nation for years. Some see the monuments as symbols of “Soviet re-occupation,” and the launching of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in February intensified public debate over the memorials.
Also in May, the Latvian parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of unilaterally renouncing part of a treaty with Russia which guaranteed protection for Soviet war monuments in the country.