RIGA, November 9. /TASS/. The Russian embassy in Latvia has expressed its indignation over Riga’s bill to grant the status of WWII ‘participant’ to all those who fought on Latvian soil during that war, both in the Soviet Army and in Nazi units.
"The ‘On the Status of a WWII Participants’ bill puts Red Army veterans on par with SS stormtroopers. Moreover, it cuts off most of those who contributed to liberating Europe from Nazism. This positioning is not just revolting, it is alarming bearing in mind the new wave of xenophobia and nationalism sweeping across Europe. Regrettably, someone still finds it difficult to understand," a spokesman for the Russian embassy told TASS on Thursday.
Last week, Latvia’s parliament passed a bill in second reading granting the status of WWII ‘participant’ to all who fought in the republic’s territory during World War II, both in the Soviet army and for the Third Reich. Under the bill, such status can be granted only to those who were Latvian citizens as of June 17, 1940, the date considered by Riga as the beginning of the "period of occupation." It means that this status cannot be granted to Latvia’s mostly Russian-speaking non-citizens and naturalized non-citizens, i.e. those who received Latvian citizenship after passing a specialized official exam on the Latvian language and knowledge of the country’s history.
Thus, according to Ritvars Jansons, an MP in the Latvian parliament and the one spearheading work on this bill, the status of a WWII participant can be granted to up to 300 Latvian nationals. Notably, this status does not provide any additional social benefits. The third reading of the bill is expected in December.
Latvia is among a few European Union countries that ensure no state financial support to veterans of the anti-Hitler coalition. The Latvian parliament has steadily rejected the Russian-speaking public’s opposition to Riga’s deviations on this matter.