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RIGA, October 22 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian-speaking opposition in Latvia has criticized a position assumed by Latvian Minister of Justice Janis Bordans who declared that there was no room to a WWII memorial to Soviet soldiers in the center of the Latvian capital. The prime minister's statement provokes feud, said Andris Alksnis - deputy of the Latvian Seim from the Center of Accord - the biggest bloc of the opposition, who represents the interests of the Russian-speaking population.
Alksnis urged the prime minister not to drive a wedge between people in society and not to abuse the most painful pages in Latvian history. A minister cannot help feeling respect for the memories of the WWII heroes, the MP said, according to the Center of Accord's press service.
More than 60 million perished in WWII; memorials to WWII victims exist in many cities all over the world. Each of us knows at least one family in which one of the grandfathers was a member of the Legion, and the other grandfather served in the Red Army, Alksnis said. "Mr. Bordans might have asked any veteran what he thinks about the initiative of the prime minister to split the society, and we would have seen then what their answer would be," Alksnis said.
Earlier, Bordans had declared that the memorial to the Soviet soldiers in Riga was a symbol of the occupation authorities, and that there was no place for such a monument in the center of the Latvian capital where "an international stadium might be built instead."
More than 10,000 people in Latvia contributed their signatures to one of the Internet portals in support of the campaign launched by the supporters of the liquidation of the WWII memorial. Latvian law envisages that if a public initiative draws the support of no fewer than 10,000 adolescent citizens in Latvia the initiative is granted the status of a collective appeal and should be discussed by the Latvian Seim.
In retaliation, a signature campaign to which more than 5,000 already joined in Latvia, was launched against dismantling the WWII memorial to Soviet soldiers.
The Riga memorial is the chief monument of the Russian-speaking community in Latvia which accounts for approximately 40 percent of the overall population.
Every year around 200,000 people come to the memorial on Victory Day on May 9 to lay flowers to the monument and congratulate WWII veterans. The memorial had been vandalized many times since it was built in the 1980s, and in 1997 an attempt was made to explode it.