Latvia detains protesters after destruction of Soviet monument
Latvian police detained people protesting on Tuesday against the dismantling of a Soviet monument commemorating the liberation of Latvia and its capital, Riga, from the Nazis, in World War Two.
Local authorities stated that of the several dozen who showed up at the site, 14 were arrested for disobeying orders to disperse.
The news portal Delfi reported that on Tuesday morning Latvian police and “builders and equipment” arrived at Victory Park in Riga, where the famous Soviet monument is located. The memorial was surrounded by fences covered with opaque sheeting as the workers began dismantling it.
In the evening, people began coming to the park, many carrying flowers. The police, however, did not let them approach the monument, so they tried laying the flowers in a field next to a nearby gas station, which was also eventually disallowed by the police, according to Delfi.
Closer to midnight, even more people came to the site, states the outlet, many of whom began singing the popular Russian WW2-era song ‘Katyusha’. Meanwhile, some of the protesters began growing more agitated and were getting into verbal skirmishes with the police, after which they were ordered to disperse. Those who failed to comply were arrested.
The monument, formally dedicated to the ‘Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders’ was built in 1985. However, after Latvia gained independence following the dissolution of the USSR, the country’s authorities increasingly began seeing the memorial as a symbol of Soviet oppression and the question of taking it down was repeatedly raised. With anti-Russian sentiment in the country rising in recent years, Russia’s operation in Ukraine that started in late February served as the catalyst for the final decision to demolish the monument.
Earlier this month, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that government-level decisions by countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to completely destroy the Soviet military memorial heritage, as well as anything related to Russia, was a manifestation of neo-Nazism in these states.