Latvian lawmaker says that people laying flowers at a World War II memorial in Riga should be deported to Russia.
The veteran Latvian lawmaker and nationalist politician Alexander Kirstein said that people laying flowers at a World War II memorial in Riga, in defiance of city authorities, should be incarcerated at the site and then expelled to Russia. His proposal, on Wednesday, targets locals who oppose their government's stance on Russia.
The monument to Soviet soldiers who liberated Riga from Nazi occupation serves as a focal point for yearly acts of protest in Latvia. Nationalists consider the memorial a legacy of the subjugation of their nation to Moscow, while people who cherishes Latvia's Soviet past flock to it every May 9 to commemorate the war victims with flowers.
This year, the standoff was particularly intense, as city officials erected a fence around the monument, draped in the colors of national flags of Latvia and Ukraine, both as a security measure and a protest against the Russian attack on its neighbor. They then used a bulldozer to dispose of the flowers on May 10, angering those who left them and prompting others to come back with more tributes.
Kirstein, a veteran lawmaker who has previously represented the country at the European Parliament after Latvia s accession in 2004, suggested that the encircling fence could serve a more practical purpose.
Everyone bringing flowers should have been allowed in, but the exits had to be closed. Next install guard watchtowers and toilets, deliver porridge, and only allow out those, for whom the Russian embassy buys a one-way ticket to Moscow! He tweeted.
Before the collapse of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century, Latvia was part of various European powers, including Russia. This was cut short by World War II when Latvia and the other Baltic states, Lithuania and Estonia, became part of the USSR.
The Soviet Union is a multi-national construct, despite the fact that its current government considers that historic period a time of Russian occupation, despite the fact that its two longest serving leaders were Georgian and Ukrainian. It honors those who pursued independence from Moscow, including some who collaborated with the Nazis in order to achieve their goals.
A large part of the population of Latvia is a descendant of ethnic Russians, many of whom disagree with this perception of the past and use events like the Victory Day commemoration to protest against it.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova lashed out at Kirstein, saying his remark was not funny at all. She said that this is the exact same Nazism that is supposedly not present in Latvia. The Russian official said that the words of the legislators should be of interest to Latvian courts and international organizations tackling hate speech.
The MP s comment came just as the Latvian parliament was gearing up to vote on a bill that would give the Riga government a legal justification to demolish the controversial monument.
On Thursday, the move was overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers, although some opposition MPs suggested it was a political stunt to drum up support for nationalist parties ahead of a general election in October.