Police in Latvia have blocked access to the Liberators of Riga monument as Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins expressed his frustration at city residents twice creating a carpet of flowers, despite authorities’ attempts to prevent and remove it.
Latvian police announced on Wednesday that “in order to prevent endangering public safety” and to avoid “possible provocations” they had decided to close public access to Victory Park where the monument is located. It was explained, that following “the events of May 9 and especially May 10,” when a crowd gathered near the monument. In the opinion of Latvian authorities’, the site “is most directly related to the continuation of Latvia’s occupation after the Second World War and is actually perceived by society as a symbol of the Soviet regime.”
On May 9, when former Soviet republics celebrate Victory Day, flowers brought in by the city’s residents were removed by a tractor.
In response, on May 10, people brought even more flowers to the monument. In the evening the State Police Special Task Battalion was deployed to disperse a 500-strong crowd on the square. In a statement the police said that any gatherings on the square would be considered as an expression of “support for the Russian Federation,” apparently linking events of the Second World War with the current Russian military operation in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins took to social media on Tuesday to say that “disrespect towards Latvian statehood, historical experience and victims of the Russian War in Ukraine is not acceptable.”
“What is happening in Pardaugava (Riga’s area) today is not excusable. I am waiting for responsible services actions and the explanation of the Minister of Interior Marija Golubeva,” he wrote.
It remains to be clarified what exactly caused the prime minister’s displeasure.
Russian Ambassador to Latvia Mikhail Vanin called the actions of the Latvian authorities over the last days an expression of “stupidity.”