Mayor: Rīga can learn from Kyiv on providing bomb shelters

The mayor of Riga, Vilnis Ķirsis (New Unity), believes that Riga could receive advice from Kyiv about potentially providing bomb shelters for the population of the Latvian capital.

Spaking on LTV's 'One On One' (Viens Pret Vienu) interview show October 10, Ķirsis said there are several places in Rīga that could be used as shelters, and a special civil defense app like the one used in Kyiv could be useful.

"We [in Riga] have a unit established – 12 people who deal with the issue of civil defense in various directions – starting with the military dimension, including the survey of shelters, cooperation among various Rīga [public] companies, which are also very important aspects in the issue of civil defense," said Ķirsis.

Ķirsis pointed out that there are several shelters in the territory of Riga that have survived "from previous times". However, he did not specifically answer whether there is a currently a viable bomb shelter in Rīga.

"Many shelters are no longer owned by the municipality... Several are being considered for renovation and revitalization, as they are hardly comfortable. This is the direction in which we have to work. If we look at other good examples, for example in Finland, they started to do it immediately after the Second World War... Unfortunately, we are where we are," said the mayor.

In the opinion of the head of the city, Rīga could cooperate with the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, on the issue of creating shelters.

"It is worth learning from Ukraine, from Kyiv. I would see that in terms of bomb shelters, we could cooperate with Kyiv, where a mobile app has been created, in which you can find the nearest place to shelter, and where there is humanitarian aid available during airstrikes and bombings," said Ķirsis. 

Talks between Rīga and Kyiv are currently underway. Ķirsis revealed that Kyiv is "ready to donate this app" to Rīga as a gesture of gratitude for help during the war. "And negotiations are underway with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, so that they will co-finance from the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism the adaptation of this [app] to the situation in Rīga, and other municipalities will also be able to use it," added Ķirsis. 

Asked why the app was being readied before there are any shelters in which to shelter, the mayor replied: "The application can be adapted relatively quickly, but creating shelters is not so easy." 

Earlier this year, then-Saeima speaker Edvards Smiltēns also floated the idea of Rīga adopting Kyiv's civil defense app.

A year ago, LSM reported on the fact that Latvia has no public bomb shelters available and, unlike Kyiv and many other capital cities, has no underground rail network.

In the years of the Cold War, hundreds of shelters were constructed in Latvia, where the Soviet nomenclature and military personnel were to take shelter in the event of a nuclear war. After regaining independence, the State formally took care of these civil protection facilities, but no investment or maintenance took place.

During the 2008 financial crisis, to save funds, the government revoked the status of a civil protection facility for the remaining 300 bunkers, allowing landlords to handle them at their discretion. Most were privatized, demolished, flooded, collapsed or used for other purposes, such as a shop, warehouse, or museum.

At the end of the 1980s, there were around 20 shelters in Rīga, each of which could accommodate hundreds of people. Today, there are only four bunkers, and none of them can be used for their original purpose.

The LTV report below is from 2022 and shows some of the former bomb shelters in Rīga.


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