Putin blasts 'Nazi' Latvia against backdrop of controversial musical

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced Latvia, claiming manifestations of Neo-Nazism in the country were “routine”, the Itar-Tass news agency reported Wednesday, citing an interview with Serbian daily Politika.

“Regrettably, the vaccine against the Nazi virus developed at the Nuremberg trials is losing its efficiency in some European states,” Putin said, before singling Latvia out for special attention.

“A vivid example of this is open manifestations of neo-Nazism, which have become routine in Latvia and other Baltic countries,” Putin said.

His comments come shortly before he is due to visit EU-aspirant Serbia and may have been partially sparked by the appearance on the Latvian stage of a musical play dedicated to Herberts Cukurs, a controversial aviator and deputy commander of a World War Two death squad, the Arajs Kommando.

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said in a statement Wednesday the musical was “not in good taste” but defended the producers' right to free speech.

“No matter what caused people to speak well of Cukurs in the 1930s, his participation in the Arajs Komando, whatever role he had in it, leads me to conclude that there can be, in no way, a basis for singing eulogies about him,” Rinkevics said.

“I’d sooner say that this kind of production is not in good taste and, from my point of view, cannot, in any way, be supported. Being a member of the Arājs Kommando is not worth singing about. Let those who attend the performance appraise the production for themselves; however, the position of the Government is that this is not in good taste,” the Minister reiterated.

Following its premiere in Cukurs' home town of Liepaja on October 11, the musical Cukurs. Herberts Cukurs is due to be performed in Riga on Thursday evening.

The producers of the show claim it is not an attempt to whitewash history but a genuine attempt to provoke debate about Cukurs' story and alleged crimes.

You can read LSM's review of the musical here.

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