Latvian woman says her son did nothing illegally.
The mother of a young Latvian man who is facing charges for brandishing a Russian flag during World War Two Victory Day celebrations in the EU country s capital, insists his arrest was groundless.
Alexander Stefanov was arrested by police on May 10 near a monument commemorating Soviet soldiers in Riga. The Latvian authorities said that this year, instead of celebrating Victory Day, the country would mourn those who died or were wounded in Russia's ongoing military operation in Ukraine. They banned the display of Russian or Soviet symbols, warning that it would be considered a glorification of aggression and could lead to criminal and administrative liability.
Alexander's mother Svetlana Stefanova told RT that her son could face up to five years in prison if convicted, but a lighter punishment like probation or a fine was also possible.
Her son's treatment by the Latvian police was totally unexpected, the woman said, especially considering that Alexander Alexander did nothing wrong.
The young man had been engaged with police about the display of Russian symbols during Victory Day celebrations on Monday, with officers telling him that they were only banned on May 8 and May 9, she said.
Alexander returned to the memorial on Tuesday, May 10, along with many others who were shocked and angered after learning that thousands of flowers had been laid at the foot of the monument a day before had been removed by a bulldozer.
He was holding a Russian flag, confident that he wasn't violating any rules, but was still approached by officers.
They had a long communication, but the police eventually apologised to him and let him go, Svetlana recalled. Alexander was able to lay flowers at the monument to the Soviet troops who liberated Riga from the Nazis, but an hour later when he was leaving the square, he was arrested, she added.
What kind of liability could there be when the Russian flag was not apparently illegal on May 10, the woman said.
She said her home had been searched as part of the case against her son, and officers seized a hard drive and a SIM card.
Svetlana declined to talk about the persecution of the Russian-speaking minority, which accounts for about a quarter of Latvia's population. She said she was not a political person, but she said she could only think about rescuing her son.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Latvia was a part of the USSR from 1940 and gained independence in 1991. The country's current authorities consider this period to have been a period of Russian occupation. After Latvian lawmakers voted to renounce part of a treaty with Russia, the country committed to protecting and maintaining war memorials, the Soviet monument in Riga is under threat of demolition.