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The Riga City Council voted to demolish the monument to the liberators of Riga from Nazi invaders. After the decision was announced, protests began in the city. Representatives of Russia have previously condemned the possible demolition and expressed their readiness to take the monument from Latvia.
On Friday, the Riga City Council decided to start all the preparatory work necessary for the future dismantling of the monument to Soviet soldiers in Zadvinye. 38 deputies were in favor, 7 were against, and there were no abstentions.
After the vote in the Riga City Council, a protest action began in the city center, in which about 200 people took part. According to Delfi, police officers detained seven people on the Town Hall Square, including the leader of the Russian Union of Latvia, MEP Tatyana Zhdanok.
The memorial complex, which is called the Monument to the soldiers of the Soviet Army – the liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the Nazi invaders, was opened in 1985. This is an almost 80-meter column with golden stars, next to which there are sculptures of Soviet soldiers and the Motherland.
Voting and protests
The day before, the Latvian parliament approved a bill that suspends the 13th article of the Latvian-Russian treaty of 1994, which ensures the safety of memorial structures. This bill removed a major legal hurdle for the demolition of the monument.
The decision of the parliament was directly related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine – the operation of the 13th article will be suspended until “the cessation of Russia’s violation of international law against Ukraine, including the withdrawal of its troops from the territory of Ukraine, the full restoration of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine in accordance with international law and payment of compensation to Ukraine for violations of international law committed.
The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, reacted to the Sejm’s decision, calling the deputies “ghouls.” The governor of the Leningrad region Alexander Drozdenko sent an appeal to the mayor of Riga, Martins Stakis, in which he announced his readiness to pick up the monument, the press service of the regional government reported.
The controversy surrounding the Soviet monument escalated on the eve of Victory Day. This year, instead of traditional concerts and processions on May 9, the Latvian authorities only allowed laying flowers at the monument, causing discontent among the Russian-speaking population. At the same time, a photo exhibition with footage of the war in Ukraine was organized around the monument.
The next day, the flowers in front of the monument were removed with a bulldozer. This caused even more public outrage, and soon new flowers began to appear near the monument. And in the park around, protesters began to gather both in support of Russia and against it. The police started making arrests.
As a result, the police opened about 20 administrative cases (mainly for participation in unauthorized actions, as well as the demonstration of prohibited symbols), and three criminal cases (under articles on police resistance, as well as on justifying genocide) were reported by local media.
Head of the State Police Armands Ruks said on May 11 that the monument would be fenced until August 31. “Even if the monument is not demolished, let them forget it, there will be no flower laying next year. This is a dangerous site for public safety, no one will go there anymore. There will be police standing around, even if it is not demolished. At that site, near there will be no laying of flowers at the foot of the square,” Rucks was quoted as saying by Delfi.
On the same day, the collection of money for the dismantling of the monument began – the Ziedot.lv portal has already collected more than 200 thousand euros for the demolition of the “occupation monument”.
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