World News

Latvian police stop Nazi commemoration procession

RIGA (Reuters) - Latvian police prevented a procession from going ahead on Thursday to mark the 1941 arrival of Nazi troops in Riga, although some people laid flowers in a commemoration criticised by officials and Jewish groups.

The prime minister, foreign minister and president had condemned the plan to mark the entry into the Latvian capital of Nazi troops, who had driven out the Soviet Army during World War Two. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff had led Jewish condemnation.

Police prevented the event from going ahead as its organiser Uldis Freimanis did not attend it, municipal police chief Janis Gedrushevs told reporters.

Under Latvian law, a political procession cannot go ahead without the main organiser being present.

The Security Police, which is responsible for domestic security, said it had called in Freimanis for questioning, meaning he could not attend the event, leading to its ban.

About 50 people, mostly pensioners, later went to the centrally located Freedom Monument and put flowers by it.

“We are not glorifying Nazism,” Edgars Dambitis, 68, told Reuters. “Both (the Soviet and German armies) were occupiers.”

The German invasion in 1941 followed a year of Soviet occupation, during which Latvia was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union and many Latvians were shipped to Siberia, including Jews.

Many people cheered the arrival of Nazi German troops in the streets of Riga, but soon after they entered the country the mass slaughter of Jews began. The 1941 arrival of the Nazi troops has never before been commemorated publicly in Latvia.

Reporting by Aija Braslina; editing by David Stamp