Riga City Council has authorized all the events planned in the city center for March 16 (informal remembrance day for Legionnaires or the Latvian soldiers, who served in the Latvian Waffen SS Legion and fought on the side of Germany in World War II), but set certain restrictions for one of the events, LETA reports.
March of Daugavas Vanagi radical organization and the rally of the Society in Support of National Soldiers will be held without any restrictions.
Limbazi office of Daugavas Vanagi plans a march involving about 100 people and starting at 11:00am from St. John’s Church and ending at the Freedom Monument. Society for Support of National Soldiers will rally at the Freedom Monument from 7:00am to 1:00pm.
The Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee, which traditionally organizes anti-Legion events on March 16, was told that it cannot hold its protest demonstration at the same venue and at the same time as the two above organizations. The City Council offered two options to Anti-Nazi Committee: to change either the time or location of its demonstration so that it would not overlap with any of the pro-Legion gatherings.
Spokesman for the Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee Vladimir Buzayev left a post in Facebook saying a representative of Daugavas Vanagi was received first by the City Council and went out in a minute quite inspired. “The Waffen SS Legion march is going to happen!” Buzayev writes. As to their application for the anti-Nazi event for same day, March 16, it was discussed for about an hour by Riga City Council and finally they were offered to hold it on Bastion Hill from where no one would see or hear them, Buzayev writes. He highlights that the application for the event commemorating those killed by SS Legion was in line with all the previous requirements of the City Council related to security and public order. “The City Council referred to a certain Security Police letter, but did not show it to us. Don’t blame me for not being happy with our brilliant mayor (Nils Ušakovs – EADaily’s note),” Buzayev writes, promising to dispute the decision and get a permission to hold the event at the initial venue and time.
Every year on March 16, radical organizations hold events commemorating Waffen SS Legionaries. Last year the event involved about two thousand people. The Police arrested five anti-Fascists during the event, as they held posters with photos of the Nazism victims and chanted “Nazism will fail!” and “Shame on Latvia!” The Police found those slogans insulting.
Security Police still sees risks of clashes during the event on March 16, mixnews.lv reports. They say anti-Fascists protests have become less intensive over the last years, as main clashes are happening in the information space now, where march of nationalists is “interpreted as a proof of Nazism revival and history rewriting.” According to the Security Police, this is “a myth created by Russian propaganda.” Besides, the Police anticipate arrival of foreigners to join both the march for SS Legionaries and anti-Nazi protests on March 16. Security Police plan to use “legal tools to prevent possible clashes.” Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis in turns hopes for peaceful marches.
Russia calls such marches an insult to the memory of millions of killed. Besides, such events ignore the decision of Nuremberg International Tribunal, resolutions of UN General Assembly against glorification of Nazism. Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov calls this a shame for EU and NATO. “Amid known complaints for threats to liberal European values, we can see the so-called silence of the lambs about government support to regular marches of Neo-Nazis in Latvia,” Sputnik Latvia quotes Lavrov as saying.
The Latvian SS Legion was formed by Command of Nazi Germany during WWII from two Grenadier regiments. Heinrich Himmler made an order on March 24, 1943 specifying the idea of “Latvian legion” as general definition for Latvians serving at all Latvian units of Waffen SS, including police battalions.
The Legion subdivisions clashed with the Red Army on March 16, 1944 near Velikaya River in Pskov region. That is why, Day of legionaries is marked in Latvia on March 16. Overall, the Latvian SS Legion numbered 150,000 people.