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Riga mayor says his ‘Soviet occupation’ cartoon was grossly misinterpreted

April 28, 16:03 UTC+3 RIGA RIGA April, 28. /TASS
Nils Usakovs explained that the main message of his cartoon was the current situation in the country should be blamed on the current politicians, while many of these tend to blame historical events
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Mayor of Latvia’s capital Riga, Nils Usakovs

Mayor of Latvia’s capital Riga, Nils Usakovs

© EPA/VALDA KALNINA

RIGA, April 28. /TASS/. The mayor of Latvia’s capital Riga, Nils Usakovs, believes that the cartoon containing an allusion to damage Latvia ostensibly suffered from "Soviet occupation" he published in social networks recently has been grossly misjudged.

"I’m very sorry that some people have interpreted the cartoon I published as an attempt to ridicule history," Usakovs said on Latvian television in an interview.

He dismissed reproaches addressed to him as groundless. At the same time he agreed that the method he had chosen to comment on Latvia’s alleged damage from the period called "Soviet occupation" was possibly not the best of all.

"The form of expression may have been wrong. But the things I do are often misinterpreted. Possibly, I am too impulsive, but I will go on saying things I believe to be correct," he said.

Usakovs explained that the main message of his cartoon was the current situation in the country should be blamed on the current politicians, while many of these tend to blame historical events.

"Time is ripe for politicians to stop referring to history in order to cover up what has been done over the past 25 years," Usakovsk said.

The head of the commission charged with the task of finding out if Latvia suffered damage during Soviet years, Ruta Pazdere, earlier claimed that Latvia’s losses during the Soviet period totaled €300 billion, including €185 billion of damage to the economy. Usakovs responded with a cartoon on his Facebook page. The drawing showed a cyclist who had broken his bike on purpose only to demand a €185-billion compensation from Russia.

A political party affiliated with the ruling coalition demanded apologies from Usakovs, saying that making fun of "the horrors of Soviet occupation" was as disgraceful as mocking the Holocaust. For her part, Pazdere warned that the cartoon might cost Usakovs five years in jail.

Parliament member from the ruling Unity party, Vilnis Kirsis, and European Parliament member from Latvia Inese Vaidere asked the Prosecutor-General and the Security Police to express their attitude to cartoon.

The organization calling itself Occupation Studies Society urged the Prosecutor-General’s Office to look into whether Usakov’s actions bore traces of a crime punishable under the Criminal Code’s article on the justification of genocide and crimes against humanity.

In response, a campaign in support of Riga’s mayor followed in the social networks. Thousands of Riga residents have replaced their profile photos with the slogan "Es esmu Usakovs" (I’m Usakovs).

Riga has repeatedly urged Russia as the legal successor of the Soviet Union to recognize the instance of "Soviet occupation." The government in 2005 established a special commission to estimate the alleged damage. The economic crisis paused the commission’s operation from 2009 to 2014.

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