Russia protests dismantling of Soviet monument

The Russian Foreign Ministry has protested the dismantling of a monument to Soviet sailors in Limbazi town in northern Latvia and handed a diplomatic note to Latvia over the incident. 

"We find dismantling the monument to Soviet sailors unacceptable and contradictory to bilateral agreements,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told the press Wednesday.

She said she was referring to the 1994 agreement between Latvia and Russia about social protection of retired Russian servicemen and their family members living in Latvia which also included an obligation to ensure preservation and maintenance of memorials and burial sites.

Latvia's Foreign Ministry said it's looking into the situation but would abstain from comment for the time being, the Latvian Foreign Ministry’s Media Center told LETA Thursday.

The monument was built in Limbazi during the Soviet occupation to commemorate Soviet sailors killed during World War II. In summer 1941 they were killed in a battle against local partisans.

The monument was dismantled last weekend by a local branch of Daugavas Vanagi veterans' association. Gunars Grinbergs, the chairman of the branch, said that, according to the archives, the sailors had been marauding the town and killed seven innocent civilians.

However, Regina Tamane, editor-in-chief of the Auseklis daily, told Latvian Radio Thursday that the dismantling had been approved as due to its poor condition the monument had become dangerous to children.

The anchor and a chain of the monument were already missing, as was the memorial plaque. In addition to that, there were no documents attesting as to whom the monument belonged to, and it even did not have an entry in Latvia's Land Registry, said Tamane.

Tamane argued that Russia is wrong in thinking that the monument was part of a group of buildings that should be preserved.

The municipality had ascertained the status of the torn-down monument, receiving a document from the Brethren Cemetery's Committee that certified the torn-down memorial is not on the list of Russian monuments.

"It was a cult place in the Soviet Union, but the monument never meant anything for the inhabitants of Limbazi," said Tamane. 

The moving or dismantling of Soviet monuments is a thorny topic, as most notoriously exemplified in Tallinn's "bronze soldier" riots of 2007 when the moving of a memorial to a military cemetery from the center of the Estonian capital led to mass civil unrest.

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