Latvia topples Soviet-era obelisk amid backlash against Russia | Latvia
A concrete obelisk topped with Soviet stars that was the centerpiece of a monument to the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany was pulled down in the Latvian capital on Thursday, the latest in a string of Soviet monuments torn down after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Heavy machinery was spotted behind a green privacy fence at the base of the nearly 80-meter (260-foot) obelisk shortly before it was pulled down. The column, which resembled a skyscraper in central Riga, crashed into a nearby pond, causing a huge splash in Victory Park.
A Latvian media broadcast the event live as onlookers, some with Latvian flags wrapped around their shoulders, cheered and cheered.
The obelisk, consisting of five spiers surmounted by three Soviet stars, stood between two groups of statues: a band of three Red Army soldiers; and a woman representing the “Fatherland” with her arms raised.
The monument was built in 1985, when Latvia was still part of the Soviet Union. It has been the subject of controversy since Latvia regained its independence in 1991 and eventually became a member of NATO and the European Union.
On Twitter, the Latvian Foreign Minister said that by destroying the monument, Latvia was “closing another painful page of history and looking for a better future”.
The country shares a 214 km (133 mile) border with Russia and has a large ethnic Russian population. On the annual Victory of Russia Day, which commemorates the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II, people gathered outside the monument in Riga to lay flowers.
Latvia’s parliament voted to demolish the Victory Park monument in May, and Riga’s city council followed suit. Clearing work on the monument began this week with the removal of the statues. The area was then cordoned off and authorities issued a drone flight ban. Police temporarily closed traffic near the park on Thursday, citing security concerns.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February prompted authorities in several Eastern European countries to remove symbols of their communist era.
The government of Poland, another country that was once part of the Soviet empire, said on Thursday that a memorial site in neighboring Belarus containing the graves of Polish soldiers who died in World War II was being razed by authorities. Belarusians.
Łukasz Jasina, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter that the cemetery in the village of Surkonty, where the Polish resistance fought against Soviet forces, is “devastated by the services of the Minsk regime”.
The development comes a day after Poland said it was demolishing a monument to Soviet Red Army soldiers in Poland, one of dozens that have been marked for destruction.
Belarus has been a key ally of Moscow while Poland, which sits on Ukraine’s western border, has backed Ukraine.
Estonia last week removed a Soviet World War II monument near a town on the Russian border as part of a wider effort to dismantle Soviet-era symbols. The replica tank was sent to a war museum north of Tallinn.
In 2007, the removal of a World War II monument to a Red Army soldier in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, sparked days of riots.