At least five arrested in protests over demolition of Soviet monument in Riga

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At least five people have been arrested Tuesday in Riga, Latvia’s capital, while protesting the demolition of the Liberators Monument, erected 1985 to commemorate the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

The arrests have occurred as a result of the refusal of some people to leave the memorial complex when required by the Police, who have reported minor verbal clashes between supporters and opponents of the removal of these monuments, located in the Pardaugava neighborhood, reports the Baltic news agency BNN.

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Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks has described the police work as “perfect,” adding that they will have “zero tolerance” for “defenders of Russia’s imperial ambitions,” in line with the arguments that have been put forward in this regard to justify the removal of these monuments.

For his part, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics has warned foreign citizens that if they are “caught” committing illegalities during the removal of these monuments “will be included in Latvia’s list of undesirable persons and expelled from the country.”

The so-called Victory Park in Riga is a memorial complex dominated by an imposing 76-meter-high obelisk, adorned with five golden stars representing the years that World War II lasted, and escorted by two bronze statues, that of a woman representing the fatherland and that of three soldiers.

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A resolution of the Latvian Parliament provides for the disappearance by November 15 of any monument commemorating the Soviet regime, as part of the measures that some countries are implementing in retaliation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The text refers specifically to the Riga facility, erected in 1985, although it is not yet clear what will happen to the obelisk.

The monument has also traditionally served as a rallying place for ethnic Russians every May 9, Victory Day. About 25 percent of the Latvian population is ethnic Russian.

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