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Tuesday 19.06.2018 | Name days: Nils, Viktors

Multiple Latvian municipalities are prepared to work with Russian embassy on May 9th events

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUFour weeks from now Moscow will be holding a grandiose military parade dedicated to the 70th anniversary since the victory over Nazi Germany in WW II. Russia also plans to hold celebrations in multiple Latvian municipalities, which have received invitations from the Russian embassy to cooperate in the celebration of Victory Day.

Latvia does not celebrate May 9th officially, because it reminds of the state occupation of 1940. According to Nekā Personīga programme of TV3, there is no single position in regard to this celebration in the country’s municipalities.

At the beginning of March, Ogre Council received a written invitation from Russian ambassador to Latvia Aleksandr Veshnyakov in regard to cooperation in the organization of Victory Day events in Latvia. The embassy requested to be provided with premises to hold an award ceremony for veterans of the Great Patriotic War in Ogre. However, the letter did not state the number of participants, any plans or scale of the event. No information was provided in regard to security measures. Mayor of Ogre Arturs Mangulis was in no hurry to provide a reply. The coalition of Ogre Council decided to ask for advice from the government and special services.

We decided to ask all ministries for advice. We have since received replies from all of them. The general consensus is that, given the established state of affairs between the two countries, it is necessary to be careful and provide a friendly decline, said the Mayor of Ogre, adding that the proposal of the Russian embassy has been declined.

The programme reports that Latvia’s Defence Ministry and Foreign Ministry had advised municipalities to decide on their own in regard to cooperation with the Russian embassy, as ministries do not have any rights to become involved. Nevertheless, ministries note that Latvia does not celebrate the victory in the Great Patriotic War because secret documents signed by USSR and Nazi Germany allowed the Soviet Union to occupy Baltic States. Latvia celebrates the end of WW II on May 8th.

Latvian Security Police was much stricter in its reply. They recommended Ogre Council to give the Russian embassy a diplomatic decline. Russia uses May 9th to enforce its ideology and history.

«I liked the letter written by Security Police. Very clear. I allowed me as a representative of the municipality to think about risks and how it would be best for us to act,» – said deputy head of Ogre Council Ineta Tamane.

In response to questions asked by the programme, the Russian embassy stated that there are approximately 5,000 veterans living in Latvia that deserve to receive medals as part of the jubilee. 13 of them will travel to Russia to participate in May 9th events. Others will be given medals in Riga in other cities. Some of the municipalities support the proposal from the Russian embassy and provide premises for Victory Day events. This is proven by a little experiment carried out by the programme. Representatives phoned multiple city councils. Both the administration of Saldus and Rezekne had expressed cooperation to the caller, who wished to rent premises to hold Victory Day festivities.

Latvian Security Police has information that there may be additional activities of Russian-backed activists in the city. One such potential activity is the possibility of festive fireworks; proposals have been received by multiple municipalities. Security Police recommends abstaining from organizing such events in order to avoid being used as a pawn in Russia’s propaganda.

«In our [Security Police] opinion, it is convenient for Russia to enforce its interpretation of history. It can be potentially used to undermine the sense of belonging to the Republic of Latvia. Russia’s attempts to enforce its interpretation of history is part of the so-called soft power elements that do not have any immediate effects, but still manage to impact out national security interests in the long run,» – explains SP.

Now is not the time to form relations with Russia, says Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Nearly all western leaders have refused the attend May 9th events in Moscow. They condemn the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. Ogre is currently the only region in Latvia that has turned to Foreign Ministry for advice.

«We know very well that there is the autonomy of municipalities. The law provides them with competence to address such matters on their own. But I would not like such events to become attempts to rewrite history or make it look like fascism is on a rise in Latvia,» – says Rinkevics.


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