RIGA - President Vaira Vike-Freiberga addressed criticism and answered questions, mainly about the Second World War, in an interview with the popular Russian radio station Eho Moskvi. The broadcast was one of her latest attempts to voice Latvia's perspective on the divisive historic events.
Earlier, Vike-Freiberga set off tempers when she said that Russians who eat vobla (a type of fish), drink vodka and sing folk songs on May 9, the day Russia marks the defeat of fascism, would likely not change their minds about what that day means to many in Eastern Europe. The president, however, plans to attend the festivities in Moscow this May.
One of the program's first call-in questions addressed this issue. A listener asked Vike-Freiberga to explain the statement, saying that many felt insulted when they heard it.
"I just pointed out the sequences on television, where they showed how [people] were celebrating the Second World War. Veterans, who are dissatisfied with that, should express their dissatisfaction to those people. But we don't have any complaints about the way they celebrated, because we are a democratic country and we don't have any problem with that," she said.
During the show the president also declared that the regimes of Hitler and Stalin were equal, since a human being was worth nothing under either one's rule.
"The main point was the same in Stalin's regime in the Soviet Union, and Hitler's regime in Germany. Those regimes were equally totalitarian, and according to state policy, people's lives were worthless," she said. "In the name of the leader's will, interests, and values, millions and tens of millions of people died."
When asked about what she would say to the more than 70 percent of radio station listeners who believe that Latvia is Russia's enemy, Vike-Freiberga replied: "Before I became president I always said that Latvia was not an enemy of Russia. Believe us, we are not planning to attack or somehow threaten Russia. The same is with Latvian residents. They don't feel any animosity toward Russians and Russian citizens."
Vike-Freiberga has met with European leaders to seek their support in recognizing that the defeat of fascism also brought upon the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. She recently received a positive letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and has found support form Jose Barroso, president of the European Commission.
The president also reiterated her plans to go to Moscow for the May 9 commemoration ceremony, although the Estonian and Lithuanian presidents have yet to announce whether they will attend.