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Latvia Takes a Stance: The Eradication of Symbols Supporting War in Public Spaces

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Wojciech Zylm
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Latvia Scrubs Symbols of Russia's Ukraine War

In an attempt to maintain peace and harmony, Latvia has seen a significant removal of the letters 'Z' and 'V', symbols associated with Russia's war in Ukraine, from public spaces. These symbols, however, are still being used by some pro-Kremlin activists on their vehicles. The State Security Service of Latvia has noted individual instances of potentially provocative slogans appearing on vehicles, disruptive to the peaceful co-existence of different nationalities within the country.

The Police's Stance on War Symbols

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The Latvian police view the use of such stickers as an indirect endorsement of military aggression. They urged residents to report any such instances and advised against removing stickers or damaging vehicles bearing them. The use of symbols that glorify military aggression and war crimes can result in a fine of up to 350 euros in Latvia. If a person does not comply with the police request to remove such symbols, they face a fine of up to 700 euros.

(Read Also: Surge in Irregular Migration from Latvia to Lithuania: A Deep Dive into the Crisis)

Legislation Against Symbols of War Aggression

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The Latvian parliament recently voted to ban symbols of military aggression and war crimes from public display. This ban includes the letters 'Z' and 'V' and the Ribbon of Saint George, all of which are seen as symbols of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The existing Law on the Safety of Public Entertainment and Festivity Events already imposes a ban on the use of symbols associated with Nazism, fascism, or communism. The recent amendments expand this ban to symbols used in a style glorifying military aggression.

Expanded Prohibitions and Penalties

The Latvian Cabinet is now required to establish regulations on the list of such symbols. The Law also prohibits events celebrating the birthdays of individuals associated with Nazi or communist regimes, battles, and occupations of free and independent territories. Municipal authorities can deny permission for public events to be conducted within 200 meters of any monument commemorating Soviet military victories. Violations of this law will also attract a greater fine. However, the law allows for the usage of symbols or events that do not aim to glorify such regimes or aggressions, but instead serve educational or artistic purposes, such as exhibitions.

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(Read Also: Latvia’s Capital Riga Moves to Shut Down All Gaming Halls by 2023)

Significance of the Amendments

According to Artuss Kaimiņš, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee responsible for advancing the bill, the amendments aim to send a strong signal condemning Russia's war in Ukraine. The letters 'Z' and 'V', which Kaimiņš specifically mentioned in his statement, have frequently appeared on Russian military vehicles, clothing, and social media posts supporting Russia's military aggression in Ukraine.

Latvia's Stand Against War

Approximately 25 percent of Latvia's population is ethnically Russian. President Eglis Levits and his government maintain that Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, which is contemplating a similar law, were forcefully annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II. The current legislation seeks to prevent the glorification of such military aggressions and occupations, thus reinforcing Latvia's stand against war and its commitment to peace and harmony.

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