Access denied to Soviet monument after pro-Russian rally Tuesday

In light of the events at the beginning of this week, the police have restricted access to the Soviet monument in Uzvaras Park and its surroundings, the State Police (VP) said on May 11.

The area was closed “to prevent threats to public safety, life, health and property protection, possible provocations and exacerbations, and to prevent infringements as far as possible”.

Section 12 (15) of the Law On Police provides that a police officer has the right to temporarily restrict or suspend transport or pedestrian movements on streets and on the roads, as well as the entry and exit of persons in certain places or objects, if the interests of public safety, personal life, health and property protection and investigation so require.

On the night from May 9 to May 10, the Rīga municipality took away the flowers laid by the monument on May 9 on the premise that they had wilted and frozen. Subsequently, on May 10, an unauthorized gathering took place by the monument, flowers were laid again, and the people refused to disperse. In order to disperse the crowd on Tuesday, whose activities were deemed as glorifying the Soviet regime and linking it indirectly to the glorification of modern Russia, it was necessary to involve the VP Special Task Battalion.

The decision was based on possible further developments in the situation, offenses identified, persons detained, as well as administrative infringement proceedings, and criminal proceedings initiated. Currently, statistics on processes and detainees are being compiled.

Access to the monument in Uzvara Park and its area is already closed, and there are State and municipal police forces ensuring public order. Law enforcement says the VP is prepared for any scenario.

VP Chief Armands Ruks told Latvian Television on May 11 morning that the situation was exacerbated by the removal of flowers at the monument. In the opinion of Ruks, the flowers should not have been taken away by using a tractor. Images of the tractor clearing away the flowers caused numerous responses on social media. 

"We hadn't planned that there should be such an activity. Taking away flowers in the way that happened yesterday morning created tension in a certain part of society. (…) Yesterday there was no organizational arrangement, people came spontaneously. The problem was that large police resources were involved the previous day, not immediately enough forces, but involved the special tasks unit, the municipal police. I must admit, it was not our most successful operation. The VP has appointed a service inspection to assess the behavior of our officials," Ruks said.

Ruks also said that all organizers and opinion leaders of Tuesday's meeting would be held accountable. He mentioned that at least four responsible persons had already been identified, including Aleksejs Rosļikovsa and Vadims Baraņņiks.

The VP chief also said there could be similar cases in the future. 

“It's the part of the public expressing this pro-Russian attitude. An unprecedented case; I think there will be similar. The outrage of patriotic people is perfectly understandable. I am outraged myself, I am also a patriot of Latvia. To me, this object has never been acceptable. [..] It must be understood that this is all about causing mass riots, internal divisions that would be very handy for the external and internal enemy; it must not be allowed to happen."

Interior Minister Marija Golubeva, commenting on what happened at Uzvaras Park, said on Twitter that those who praised aggression or used its symbolism were detained, including a young man with a Russian flag. “The police defended the rights of Latvian citizens, also by applying force when necessary,” said the politician.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said he is expecting an explanation from the Minister for the Interior about the situation at the monument.

The gathering at the monument has also been strongly condemned by President Egils Levits.

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