RIGA, June 21 (RIA Novosti) – Latvia’s parliament has approved in the third and final reading amendments to legislation that ban the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols at all public events.
The ban involves flags, anthems, uniforms, as well as Nazi swastikas and Soviet hammer and sickle emblems.
The bill, passed by the parliament on Thursday, was partly inspired by annual pro-Russian rallies and SS veteran parades which Latvian authorities regard as attempts to “divide” the country. It will become law after Latvian President Andris Berzins signs it sometime during summer.
Russian lawmakers immediately condemned the Latvian move as “a blatant disrespect for the memories of those who perished fighting against fascism” and as an act of “discrimination against the veterans of Russia’s Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany.”
“Equating Soviet and Nazi symbols is pure blasphemy,” said Leonid Slutsky, head of State Duma committee on CIS Affairs.
Latvia’s official position is that it was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 through 1991. Russia, as a successor to the Soviet Union, does not recognize the occupation.
Russia has long been at odds with the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia over what it sees as attempts to rewrite the history of World War II and diminish the Soviet role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
While Russia maintains that the Red Army liberated the Baltic States from German invaders, many residents of the republics put the two occupations on a par, citing mass Stalin-era deportations and murders of the local population by Soviet secret police.
Latvia is still home to a significant proportion of Russians, estimated at about a quarter of the population. Many of them celebrate Victory Day on May 9.