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 has said that people laying flowers at a World War II memorial in Riga, an act that would defy city authorities, should be taken prisoner at the site and then expelled from Latvia to Russia. On Wednesday, he proposed on Twitter a proposal that targets Latvians who oppose their government's position on Russia and its historic role.
The monument to Soviet soldiers who liberated Riga from Nazi occupation serves as a focal point for yearly acts of protest in Latvia. Latvian nationalists consider the memorial to be a legacy of the subjugation of their nation to Moscow, while people who cherish 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 against its neighbor. They then used a bulldozer to dispose of the flowers on May 10, angering those who left them and prompting them to come back with more tributes.
Kirstein, a veteran lawmaker who briefly 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.
Latvia was part of various European powers, including Russia, before making a bid for sovereignty during the collapse of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. This was cut short by World War II, which ended with Latvia and other Baltic states, Lithuania and Estonia becoming part of the USSR.
Its current government considers the historic period a time of Russian occupation and 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 descendants of ethnic Russians, many of whom disagree with this perception of the past and use events like Victory Day commemoration to protest against it.
Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova lashed out at Kirstein, suggesting his remark was not funny at all. She said that this is the exact same Nazism that does not exist 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 said 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, lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the move, though some opposition MPs suggested that it was a political stunt to drum up support for nationalist parties ahead of a general election in October.