RIGA, March 14 (Itar-Tass) – The Latvian Seim on Thursday by a majority vote has turned down an amended bill on official holidays in which day of commemoration of the Latvian Waffen-SS Legion was to have become an official commemoration date annually celebrated on March 16.
Only 18 out of 100 deputies of the Latvian parliament have supported the amended bill with 63 votes against three abstentions.
The amended bill was drafted by the nationalist association for Fatherland and Freedom and All for Latvia, which belongs to the ruling coalition, jointly with the Daugava Hawks organization of the veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen SS.
Earlier, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis had declared that the other parties in the ruling coalition would not support the initiative of the nationalist organization. Nevertheless, on Tuesday a profile sub-commission of the Latvian Seim approved the amended bill.
Every year on March 16 the Latvian nationalists unofficially celebrate Day of Commemoration of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen SS. Until recently the Riga Duma headed by the first ever ethnic Russian Mayor Nil Ushakov had banned mass acts on March 16 in order to avert possible provocations which might have triggered public unrest in Riga, but the imposed bans were inevitably overruled by the Riga court.
Hundreds of veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion and their supporters march to the Statue of Liberty in Riga every year to commemorate their fellow soldiers. Groups of their Russian-speaking opponents from the anti-fascist movement traditionally confront the Waffen SS veterans, demanding to outlaw the Waffen-SS march.
Two Latvian divisions of the Waffen SS were established by Nazi occupants in 1943. For several years after Latvia had seceded from the former Soviet Union Day of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen SS was celebrated in Latvia on March 16 as an official day of commemoration. After public celebrations of Day of the Waffen SS Legion had triggered strong protests in Russia and in the West March 16 was dropped out of an official calendar of commemorative dates.