RIGA, February 12 (RIA Novosti/RAPSI) – A parliamentary commission in the Baltic nation of Latvia has supported proposed legislation criminalizing the denial of Soviet and Nazi occupation.
The bill presented by former Justice Minister Janis Bordans is likely to draw the ire of Russia, which has long condemned efforts by former Soviet Baltic republics to liken the Nazi and Soviet regimes, both of which occupied the region.
Offenders would under the proposal supported by parliament’s law commission Tuesday face a maximum penalty of three years in prison if found guilty of publicly denying, justifying and glorifying instances of historical aggression against Latvia.
Before the legislation can enter into force, it must undergo three readings in the Saeima, Latvia’s parliament, and receive approval from the president.
Latvia’s official position is that it was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 through to 1991, when it gained independence. Russia does not acknowledge that period as occupation.
Russia has long been at odds with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland, over what it describes as attempts to rewrite the history of World War II and diminish the Soviet role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
While Russia maintains the Red Army liberated the Baltic States from Nazi 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 the Soviet secret police.
Latvia is still home to a significant proportion of Russians, estimated at about a quarter of the population.