The Russian Community of Latvia has accused Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks of speaking in favor of destroying a Riga monument to Soviet soldiers to serve his own political ends.
Pabriks told the Latvian press on Monday that the monument, dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who liberated Latvia from the Nazis during the Second World War, “deserves demolition.” The Russian civic organization accused him of exploiting the matter for his mayoral ambitions in local elections next year.
“We are outraged by this statement. The question regarding the monument is a sensitive one, and before one makes such a statement, it would be nice to know the opinion of Riga's citizens on this topic,” said RCL board member Igor Vatolin. He added: “Pabriks’ statement is probably political self-promotion.”
Historical memory in Latvia is a thorny topic. Latvia insists the Soviet Union forcibly occupied it from 1940 until 1991, and has come under criticism from Moscow for its parades in which veterans that fought with the Nazis against Soviet forces march through Riga.
The mayor of Riga, Nil Ushakov, is the city's first ethnic Russian mayor. He was elected in 2009 and enjoys an approval rating of more than 70 percent, according to opinion polls.