Constitution Protection Bureau says removal of Soviet-era monument entails various risks from Russia

  • 2022-05-09
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - As Latvia is deciding on the removal of a Soviet-era monument in Riga, the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) sees the plan entails various risks that might be posed by Russia, including provocations and cyberattacks. 

As LETA was told at SAB, the security service has reviewed the Justice Ministry's report on  the possible legal solutions for the demolition, removal and transformation of the monument to the Soviet army and submitted to the ministry findings about possible risks. 

Since Russia uses controversial historical issues as a domestic and foreign policy tool, and judging from Russia's past reactions to history related issues, the decision to dismantle the memorial in a park in Pardaugava, Riga, might prompt Russia to take countermeasures, SAB warned. 

According to SAB, the most serious risks would be the following: Russia might step up cyberattacks on Latvia's critical infrastructure and other sectors of national importance, intensify propaganda, increase the risks of physical confrontations, using pro-Kremlin sentiments in a part of Latvia's society. 

SAB also believes that Russia might retaliate by imposing sanctions on Latvian officials that have proposed or supported the monument's removal. A launch of criminal investigations by the Russian Investigative Committee cannot be ruled out either. 

Furthermore, Russia might activate its influence organizations with the aim to discredit Latvia and plot provocations against Latvian diplomatic staff and objects in Russia. 

Commenting on SAB findings following the weekly coalition meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said that the situation in Latvia has substantially changed after Russia's invasion of Ukraine - many members of the public are reconsidering their views and public opinion polls suggest that support for Russia's war in Ukraine is decreasing by the day.

As reported, the government coalition on Monday agreed on support for legislative amendments drafted to remove legal obstacles to dismantling the Soviet-era monument in Victory Park in Pardaugava, Riga.

The Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee on May 6 voted to support the intention to suspend an article in the agreement between Latvia and Russia, which regulates the maintenance of memorial structures and mass burial sites.

The Committee assessed Article 13 of the intergovernmental agreement on the social protection of Russian military pensioners and their family members living in Latvia, which has so far been mentioned as the main argument for the protection of the Soviet-era monument in Riga's Victory Park. Six members voted in favor of suspending the article, while one abstained. The committee has a total of nine members.

Recently, in connection with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the question of the existing Soviet-era monument at Victory Park, and the possibilities to dismantle it have come to the fore.

The Conservatives faction of the Saeima has submitted a draft resolution to the parliament to move forward with the intention to dismantle the monument in Victory Park. Parliament is due to review this proposal next week.