Saeima backs ban on 'St. George ribbon' use at public events

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On Thursday, November 11, the Saeima in the final reading supported a ban on the display of the so-called 'St. George ribbon' at public events, meetings, marches and pickets. This is provided for in the adopted amendments to the Law on the Security of Public Entertainment and Festivities and the Law on Meetings, Processions and Pickets.

The annotation of the amendments points to Russia's aggression in eastern Ukraine, where the black-orange striped ribbon became a symbol of Russia's hybrid war. It is used by "both terrorist groups in Eastern Ukraine and supporters of Russian aggression throughout the former USSR" though its origins date back to Tsarist times. It is also in evidence at May 9 events marking the Soviet 'Victory Day'.

"Given Russia's expansion into Ukraine and its totalitarian ideology towards the former USSR republics, Latvia has reason to see a sufficient threat to its democratic order and security. The significance of St. George's ribbons as a symbol has changed over time, and banning them now will limit the above ideology. We need to make our values ​​clear and take a stand against the use of these ribbons in public events," said Artuss Kaimiņš, Chairman of the Saeima Commission for Human Rights and Public Affairs. 

During the debate in the Saeima, deputy Nikolajs Kabanovs (Harmony), said that the ban on the ribbon could be perceived by some Russians as an attack on themselves and their identity. He said the ribbon was not banned in any other EU country and had historically been an award for Russian officers.

His proposal to provide for exceptions for commemorations at war burial sites and war memorials, during historical reconstructions, and for foreign diplomats was also rejected.

Punishment for breaking the law ranges from a warning to a fine of up to 350 euros for an individual, and up to 2,900 euros for a legal entities such as businesses and associations.

The move is likely to spark an outraged response from the Russian Federation. 

The law already prohibits the use in public events, including in stylized form, of the flags of the former USSR, the republics of the former USSR and Nazi Germany, the uniforms of their armed forces and repressive institutions , coats of arms and anthems, Nazi swastikas, SS signs and Soviet symbols such as the hammer and sickle. Exceptions are cases where their purpose is not to glorify totalitarian regimes or to justify criminal offenses, or if they are used for educational, scientific or artistic purposes.

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