May 9 event will have stricter controls to guard against Covid spread

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A controversial May 9 event popular among Latvia's Russian minority has not been banned - but will feature enhanced controls to ensure against crowding and the increased risk of spreading Covid-19, Rīga City Council said May 5.

Known as "Victory Day" to its attendees, May 9 remains a divisive date in Latvia. While many ethnic Russians, who make up around a quarter of the population, see it as a day of commemoration and celebration, most ethnic Latvians have a different view, seeing it as the start of a second, harsh 50-year Soviet occupation.

Riga municipality said access to the park where the huge Soviet memorial that forms the focus of attention is located would not be denied.

It will be "partially restricted, but it will not be closed, i.e. visitors will be able to enter the territory in a controlled way in order to place flowers," said Riga City Council.

"In order to prevent congestion, the movement of residents in the territory of the monument will be supervised and controlled by the State Police and the Riga Municipal Police. Barriers will be used to partially demarcate the surroundings of the monument, the purpose of which is to more effectively control the flow of people. Residents will be able to enter the territory of the Victory Park in a controlled way," a statement said.

Due to the epidemiological situation, this year there will be no events such as concerts, catering trucks and market stalls that are usually present.

At the request of the municipality, the organizers have also withdrawn planned demonstrations near the monument. On Wednesday, May 5, representatives of the Riga City Council management and Riga Municipal Police met with organizers, with another meeting scheduled for May 7.

Traffic restrictions will also be set in the vicinity of the monument, which will be reported separately by the Riga City Council.

The official Latvian day for commemoration of victory over the Third Reich is May 8, with May 9 designated Europe Day.

Caught between Russia and Germany, more than 100,000 Latvian citizens fought on opposite sides during the Second World War.

The Riga event is not a public holiday in Latvia and has no official status, though police and other bodies concerned with public safety are forced to organize a large monitoring operation each year to regulate traffic and maintain order. Smaller events also take place in some other Latvian cities.

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