RIGA - Laying flowers to remember war victims is acceptable on March 16 and May 9, but staging political manifestations extolling military aggression must not be permitted, Interior Minister Marija Golubeva (Development/For) said in an interview to Latvian Radio.
The minister believes that the local authority of Riga cannot ban organizations like Daugavas Vanagi Latvija (Hawks of the Daugava in Latvia) to take part in the annual March 16 event and lay flowers at the Freedom Monument in the city center.
At the same time, it would not be right in this case to stage a political manifestation as it would give hostile Russian media another reason to throw accusations at Latvia like they have been doing for years.
"In my opinion, this should not be turned into an ethnic polarization event," the minister said.
The law enforcement authorities are preparing for May 9, the minister said but refused to elaborate on details. In this case, too, she thinks that a remembrance event, attended by people whose relatives have died in war, would be appropriate.
"A military-style or military aggression-extolling manifestation would be impermissible. I think that these are the guidelines we ill be following," the minster added.
As reported, On March 16, Limbazi branch of the Daugavas Vanagi Latvija association will organize a procession from St. John's Church to the Freedom Monument in Riga from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to commemorate Latvian Legionnaires. According to the organization's application, about 100 people will take part in the event.
In turn, the self-proclaimed Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee will also hold a rally at St. Peter's Church from 9.45 a.m. to 11 a.m. to protest "attempts to justify the crimes committed by Waffen SS". The organization said it expected some 70 people to participate in the event.
March 16 Latvian Legion Day is an unofficial remembrance day of Latvian Legionnaires. Latvian Legion Day was established in exile by the Daugavas Vanagi association. March 16 was chosen as the most appropriate date because on March 16, 1944, both divisions of the Latvian Legion fought alongside for the first time against the Red Army. It was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders.
It was also reported that the association 9.maijs.lv is once again planning to organize the annual May 9 celebrations at the monument to the soviet army in Riga's Pardaugava on May 9 this year. The association also wants the participants of the event to take part in a march. The course of the event has not yet been coordinated with the municipality.
May 9 is the day Russia marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. Many Russian-speakers in Latvia also celebrate Victory Day on May 9. Elsewhere in the world, including in Latvia, Victory in Europe Day is celebrated on May 8.