Police in Latvia probe people who laid Soviet memorial flowers

Police in Latvia probe people who laid Soviet memorial flowers

The legal action has been initiated against people who have laid flowers at the Soviet memorial in Latvia's capital.

Three criminal cases and 20 administrative ones have been launched against people who laid flowers at the World War II memorial in the Latvian capital, Riga, on May 10, the police said on Friday. A young man who brought Russia's national flag to Soviet soldiers' monument has been charged with justifying genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and war crimes.

In video clips uploaded online, he was addressing the crowd on the importance of remembering and celebrating the legacy of those who gave their lives in the battle against the Nazis, and urging the people not to be afraid to speak their stance. Alexander Stefanov's mother confirmed to news agency Sputnik that her son had been detained. She said that Latvian law enforcement officers had arrived to search her home. According to the Baltic nation's laws, Stefanov faces up to 15 years in jail. Several other people who came to the monument have been accused of resisting the police.

Latvian authorities have declared May 9 when Russia celebrates its Second World War victory over the Nazis a day of mourning for those who died or were wounded during Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine.

The officials urged the public not to gather near Soviet memorials and warned that attempts to display Russian symbols would be swiftly curbed as a glorification of aggression and could lead to criminal and administrative liability.

Since 1940, Latvia had been a part of the USSR and gained independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet empire. The country's current government considers this period of Russian occupation. Thousands of flowers were laid at its foot in the monument to Soviet soldiers who liberated Riga from Nazis on May 9, laying them at the foot of the monument. The flowers were disposed of by using a bulldozer, which shocked and angered many in Latvia, a country with a quarter of predominantly Russian-speaking population.

On May 10, the people returned to the memorial with even more flowers, prompting the authorities to erect a fence around it.

On Thursday, Latvian lawmakers voted to renounce part of a treaty with Russia, in which it pledges to protect and maintain war memorials in the country, paving the way for the removal of the Riga monument and others.