RIGA, August 28 (Itar-Tass) —— The claim of Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks that the monument to Soviet liberators of Riga deserves dismantlement for moral reasons is a total absurdity, Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs said on Tuesday.
“Although this monument deserves dismantlement for moral reasons, that may cause too many dangerous consequences,” the minister told the local newspaper Neatkariga Rita Avize. Thousands of people bring flowers to the monument in Riga on May 9 each year, “but most of them wish not to pay tribute to the WW2 victims but to keep us within the geopolitical sphere, which ceased to exist 20 years ago,” he said.
The minister explained later on that he did not call for destroying the memorial. “I do not want to dismantle the memorial. That is not my job. Simply, people use it for mutual abuse. This monument is not a symbol of our state. On the other hand, I do not think it is wise to dismantle such moments, because it is important for the larger part of the population. Let it be, it does no harm. But it must not be used as a symbol of confrontation in the country,” he told the local radio station Baltcom.
Collection of signatures for dismantling the monument to Soviet liberators of Riga started online. The anonymous author of the petition said the monument would be dismantled and placed on the Russian-Latvian border as a border pole. He also insisted on the criminal prosecution of those “who use communist symbols, deny crimes of the communist regime and glorify it.” As of now, more than 2,800 signatures have been collected.
Signatures are also being collected for keeping the monument where it is. “Our past is an inseparable part of our life. It must be respected and remembered. Every person has the right to remember one’s ancestors. If you are proud of your ancestors just like we are, sign up this petition,” campaign initiator Alexander Prokopenko wrote. More than 3,000 people have signed the petition.
May 9 is not an official holiday in Latvia but many people, mostly Russian speakers, who constitute about 40% of the republican population, celebrate the Victory Day. About 200,000 people gather near the monument to Soviet liberators of Riga to lay flowers and to congratulate WW2 veterans.