Saeima decides to legally allow Soviet monument demolition

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The Saeima on Thursday, May 12, supported amendments to the law removing legal barriers to the demolition of the Soviet memorial in Uzvaras park.

The Saeima voted for the amendments at express pace in both the first and second, final, readings today.

The corresponding amendments to the Law on the agreements between the Republic of Latvia and the Russian Federation signed in Moscow on 30 April 1994 were supported by 68 members, while 18 were against – mostly members of the opposition party Harmony, as well as the independent members Jūlija Stepaņenko and Ļubova Švecova, according to the results of the vote.

The amendments supported by the Saeima Foreign Affairs Commission are intended to suspend the functioning of Section 13 of the “Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Latvia regarding the social protection of military pensioners living in the territory of the Republic of Latvia and their family members”. Article 13 provides that Latvia shall ensure the preservation of memorial structures in Latvia.

The amendments provide for the suspension of Article 13 starting May 16, 2022, until Russia terminates breaches of international law with regard to Ukraine, including the removal of its armed forces from the territory of Ukraine and the full restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, in line with the requirements of international law, and the full reimbursement for the crimes already committed.

During the debate in Parliament, the Saeima deputy Krista Baumane (Development/For!) stated that the Uzvaras Park monument in Riga, Pardaugava was a symbol of Soviet occupation. Since February 24, when Russia started the war in Ukraine, it has become a symbol of Russian crimes in Ukraine.

The Saeima deputy Krišjānis Feldmans (Conservatives) said that it is not only about the Uzvaras Park monument – there are still hundreds of Soviet-era monuments throughout Latvia, which should be removed. In order to do this, the Saeima will still have to take bold decisions, he said.

Member of the opposition Harmony party Igors Pimenovs said that the monument has nothing to do with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it represents only the victory of the Soviet Red Army over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

"The Red Army freed Latvia from Hitler. [..] The day of victory is only the day of victory over the Hitlerians, " Pimenovs said, stressing that it is "not a Russian monument" because people of different nationalities, including Ukrainians and Latvians, served in the Red Army.

In the meantime, Viktors Valainis, deputy of the opposition Greens and Farmers Union, said that, following the adoption of these amendments, security issues and possible provocations will have to be taken more seriously in Latvia.

Amendments to the Law will enter into force on the day following their announcement.

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