RIGA, April 12 (RIA Novosti) – Latvia’s former justice minister added his voice on Friday to calls to ban the display of both Soviet and Nazi symbols in the Baltic country.
“I see no difference between the crimes committed under totalitarian communism and Nazism,” said Gaidis Berzins, who left his post last summer but remains a parliamentary deputy. “Is it acceptable to wear German Nazi medals?” he said in regard to the idea of banning World War II veterans from wearing Soviet medals.
Latvia’s parliament approved in its first reading earlier this week a law that would forbid the public display of both Soviet and Nazi symbols. The law is expected to be passed before May 9, when Russians commemorate the end of World War II.
Latvia’s official position is that it was occupied by the USSR from 1940 through 1991. Russia, as a successor to the USSR, does not recognize the occupation.
Russia has long been at odds with the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, as well as Poland, 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.