RIGA - The controversy surrounding Estonia's so-called Bronze Soldier monument has spilled over to Latvia, where hardline nationalists and World War II veterans have called for the removal of Soviet monuments in Riga.
Citing Estonia's recent law change that paves the way for the removal of the Bronze Soldier, Latvia's National Front and an alliance of Latvian WWII veterans have called on Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis to consider a similar move.
The leaders of the two nationalist organizations, Ojars Stefans and Aivars Garda, have sent the prime minister an open letter urging him to prevent "any provocations that might discredit the Latvian state" and to solve the issues concerning the removal of the Victory Monument in Riga, including working out a bill providing for dismantling and removing monuments glorifying the Soviet occupation forces.
The authors of the letter note that on Jan. 10 the Estonian parliament passed a bill that allows for the Bronze Soldier's removal.
In their letter, Garda and Stefans remind Kalvitis about the history of the Victory Monument in Riga, pointing out that in Latvia, it is not correct to refer to the Soviet troops as "liberators," although the title is quite appropriate in such a country as Austria which also has a number of monuments to Soviet liberators.
The name "liberator" cannot be applied to an army which, after driving out Hitler's forces, stayed on to loot, rape and commit other much more grave crimes against the Latvian people.
The authors of the letter believe the Victory Monument on the left bank of the Daugava River is unacceptable, as it is "glorifying the ideals of a regime guilty of genocide that killed about 60 million people, including thousands of Latvians."
"It would be as un-ethical as to erect a monument to German 'liberators' in Israel," the authors say in the letter.
Garda already called for dismantling the Victory Monument several years ago.