RIGA, March 9 Crisis-hit Latvia has banned all marches linked to the controversial anniversary next week of its World War Two SS veterans because it fears they might spark a riot like one in January, the authorities said on Monday.
The January rioting, when citizens angered at the economic crisis attacked parliament and overturned police cars, was the worst in Latvia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was one of the reasons the government collapsed in February.
The March 16 SS event, criticised by Russia as a glorification of fascism, has also been a flashpoint in the past and was banned in 2006 after violence the year before.
The Riga city council decided to ban both a march by SS veterans and nationalist supporters and a counter-demonstration by opponents of the march, mainly from the Russian-speaking community.
"They (the authorities) feared that there could be a situation similar to that of the 13th (of January), similar disorders," said a council spokesman.
Latvia says the men who fought in the ranks of the SS during the war were not fighting for fascism, but saw it as the only way to take up arms against the Red Army after Moscow's annexation of their nation before the war.
Russia has said Latvia and the two other Baltic states glorify Nazism by honouring veterans who fought on the German side. Thousands of Balts also fought in the Red Army. (Reporting by Patrick Lannin, editing by Tim Pearce)