MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russia urged the international community Monday to join it in condemning this weekend’s rally commemorating Latvian soldiers that served alongside the invading Nazi army in World War II.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Saturday’s rally made heroes out of former member of the Latvian Waffen SS legion and local Nazi collaborators.
“We hope that the revival of pro-Nazi sympathies in Latvia, which is a European Union and NATO member, will trigger an appropriate reaction from the world community,” Lukashevich said.
Surviving members of the Latvian Legion, a 110,000-strong formation created by the Waffen-SS in 1943 that drew primarily on Latvian conscripts, have held annual marches in the former Soviet Baltic nation’s capital, Riga, since the early 1990s. This year’s event was attended by several hundred participants, including a handful of nationalist lawmakers.
Any celebration of the Nazi Germany is viewed with almost universal revulsion across the former Soviet Union, but the invading force was seen by many in Latvia at the time as liberators from their communist rulers.
The rally’s route this year took participants past a street accordion player who struck up a medley of classic Soviet war songs.
Riga’s authorities had initially forbidden the rally from taking place, citing safety concerns, but the ban was overturned after a legal appeal.
Latvia’s police have initiated administrative proceedings against five participants in the march who face fines of up to $500 or a 15-day prison sentence, a police spokesman said on Monday.