Latvian President Zatlers took part in a ceremony at the national freedom monument, where he equated the Soviet deportations to a "genocide"
TALLINN - The presidents of the three Baltic States have commemorated this year's memorial day with speeches denouncing Soviet crimes nearly 70 years ago.
June 14 saw the anniversary of mass deportations across the Baltic States as Soviet troops forced tens of thousands into exile in Siberia.
"In one night, the Soviet occupying forces tore 45,000 people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from their homes and spirited them into the unknown. Forty-five thousand different lives and destines – mothers and fathers, children and classmates, friends and neighbours – all changed for ever," Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves said.
In Latvia meanwhile, President Valdis Zatlers, members of parliament, Riga city councilmen and the general public gathered at Riga's Freedom Monument today to place flower wreaths and bouquets. Zatlers said the deportations amounted to a "genocide".
"It cannot be forgotten, it was genocide of Latvian people," he said.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, for her part, said the victims needed to be remembered to prevent such crimes from taking place in the future.
"All of those losses – not forgetting a single man – have to be named and evaluated for the good of the future. So that it would never repeat again, and those losses would remain the most painful period in the history of this nation," the Lithuanian president said.