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Russia calls on Latvia to stop supporting Neo-Nazis – diplomat

Russia calls on the Latvian authorities to stop supporting Neo-Nazi movements and comply with the country's OSCE obligations to fight aggressive nationalism, Russia's OSCE envoy said commenting on the recent march of the Waffen SS veterans in Riga.

"We call on ODIHR (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) to pay close attention to the situation in Latvia and call on the country's authorities to stop supporting or ignoring neo-Nazis and to comply with its OSCE obligations to fight racism, aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism," Alexander Lukashevich said.

"It's time for Riga to finally admit evident facts - gatherings of SS veterans and their supporters are an affront to the memory of millions of the World War II victims," he said. "It is inadmissible to connive at ultra-radical movements that praise the Nazis and their abettors under the guise of the freedom of speech and assembly."

The diplomat added that ignoring or encouraging neo-Nazi movements "will inevitably lead to a tragedy."

"The examples are around us - for several years, nationalists wearing Nazi symbols have been torturing and killing people for their beliefs in one of our neighbor states," Lukashevich said.

Public events to mark the day of commemoration of the Waffen SS Latvian legion took place in Riga on Thursday. Police officials said about 2,000 people had taken part, including lawmakers and officials.

"Anyway, no statements on the issue were made by Washington, London or Paris. Besides, there has been no reaction from the European Union leadership, which is quick to make harsh statements concerning others," the Russian diplomat said.

"In fact, we are witnessing a de-facto rehabilitation and glorification of those who, as members of the volunteer Waffen SS Latvian legion, committed numerous crimes in Russia, Belarus and Poland and were involved in large-scale punitive actions against hundreds of thousands of civilians, the mass killings of Jews," he went on.

March 16 is an unofficial day of commemoration of the Waffen SS Latvian legion, two divisions of which were set up on the Latvian territory in 1943. The date remained an official commemorative date in Latvia over a period of several years after its breakaway from the USSR, but later the authorities decided to drop it off the official calendar of public commemorative events amid harsh criticism from Russia and in the West.

The Waffen SS Latvian legion had about 150,000 members, Lukashevich said.

"Meanwhile, Latvian authorities have been persistently trying to portray those military criminals as freedom fighters. On the eve of the centenary of the declaration of the Latvian statehood, such neo-Nazi events raise a question of what type of historic achievements are viewed as an example by contemporary Latvia," he said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Vienna, 16Mar17]

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