Protests kick off over plans to demolish Soviet memorial
Several hundred people attempted to gather outside Riga’s town hall on Friday as the legislature in the Latvian capital convened for an extraordinary meeting to consider demolishing a monument to Soviet soldiers who liberated the city from Nazi occupation. The move was ultimately supported by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers.
Three members of the Latvian Russian Union party, including the party’s co-chair and member of the European Parliament Tatiana Zhdanok, were briefly detained during the protest outside the town hall. Technically, the politicians were not protesting as they were seen holding placards warning citizens that the gathering had not been authorized by the authorities.
All in all, seven people were detained during the demonstration for a variety of offenses, including “petty hooliganism.” Some wore black-and-orange St. George’s ribbons, which were used on Soviet WWII victory medals, and were detained for displaying unspecified “symbols of glorification of military aggression” in public.
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EU state launches criminal cases over V-Day celebrations
Three criminal cases and 20 administrative ones have been launched against people who laid flowers at the World War II memorial in the Latvian capital, Riga, on May 10, the police said on Friday. A young man who brought Russia’s national flag to the monument to Soviet soldiers has been charged with justifying genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and war crimes.
In video clips uploaded online, he was filmed addressing the crowd on the importance of remembering and celebrating the legacy of those who gave their lives in the battle against the Nazis, and urging the people not to be afraid to voice their stance. Alexander Stefanov’s mother confirmed to news agency Sputnik that her son had been detained. She also said that Latvian law enforcement officers had arrived to search her home. The charges Stefanov faces could carry up to 15 years behind bars, according to the Baltic nation’s laws. Several other people who came to the monument have been accused of resisting the police.
The Latvian authorities have declared May 9 – when Russia celebrates its Second World War victory over the Nazis – a day of mourning for those who died or were wounded during Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine.
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