Latvia to topple Soviet war monument
Latvia will dismantle a Soviet-era monument that commemorates the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany, authorities said Monday.
Riga city’s executive director, Jānis Lange, said the Uzvaras Parks monument will be toppled Tuesday, following an order of demolition from the Latvian parliament in May, and the Riga City Council shortly after.
Local politicians had justified the demolition at the time by saying that the monument glorifies not only the Red Army, which occupied Latvia twice, but also Russia’s war crimes. Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis had stressed that the demolition of the monument was not only a local, but a national matter, and tweeted Monday that “it will be necessary to demolish the monument to the era of occupation in the hearts [as well].”
The plans have upset the Russian community in Latvia, which shares a 214-kilometer border with Russia. Ethnic Russians make up about a quarter of the country’s population.
The Latvian Russian Union announced on its Facebook page over the weekend that it plans to stage protests against the move on Monday evening with its co-chairman, Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, saying that more than 10,000 signatures have been collected against the monument’s demolition. However, Lange told reporters that the Riga City Council will not issue them a permit to demonstrate.
The removal of the monument in Riga follows a series of moves by the Baltic nations against Russia and countries close to Moscow. Earlier this month, Estonia and Latvia walked out of a Chinese-backed forum aimed at boosting relations with Eastern European countries, and Tallinn banned Russians with Estonian-issued Schengen visas from entering the country. A commemorative Soviet-era tank was also removed in Estonia a week ago.
While the Estonian monument will be transferred to the Estonian War Museum, it is not yet clear what will happen to its Latvian counterpart.