What is Latvia's official position regarding 16 March?
I may start with history that goes back to this date. At first, it should be underlined that the legionnaires are victims of the past century who fought wearing uniforms of foreign powers. When probing into wartime archive documents, the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal of 1946, and the opinion of the U.S. Displaced Persons Commission of 1950, the conclusion comes clear: the Latvian legionnaires did not fight for Nazi ideas, they were attracted neither by ideological nor military goals of the Nazi Germany.
Latvia today is a democratic country with all the freedom guarantees provided for in the Constitution. For Latvia, any totalitarian ideology is unacceptable, and this country has always condemned and will condemn the crimes of Nazism and communism, and the Holocaust, which do not have and cannot have a statute of limitations.
I do not see any contradictions in, or obstacles to the fact that former soldiers on 16 March should come together privately for remembrance gatherings dedicated to their fallen comrades-in-arms. Much to our regret, certain small radical groupings try to use this day for their personal agenda, for boosting their political capital.
In my opinion however, there still are dates in the Latvian calendar, when the people of Latvia and public officials traditionally honour the memory of the fallen soldiers, for instance, on 11 November.
The government of Latvia has always condemned the provocative intentions by the radically-minded and by extremists to voice their radical views.
As a member of the Latvian government, I appeal to the community to pay respect to their fallen comrades-in-arms at their final resting places. I also urge people not to give in to provocations and not to use this date for political manipulations. I believe that Latvia's society is capable of evaluating the true motifs of radical and extremist organizations.
Could wide-scale marking of 16 March harm Latvia's international image?
I would like to note that 16 March is not a public holiday, marked or celebrated in some way or another by the Latvian society. On 16 March, the former soldiers' organisations and associations, and their members gather privately in church or at the cemetery; they reminisce and pray for their dead comrades-in-arms. Some of these people also place flowers at the Freedom Monument.
As I already said, the way the world sees us depends to a great extent on our own ability to spend this day in a democratic atmosphere.
I do not think that marking 16 March could harm Latvia's image at the international scale. To a great extent, Latvia will be reflected in the world media in relation to our ability to organise the events in a way that does not cause problems to the public order. In a situation when we have free rights for the people to express themselves, to assemble together and to voice their opinion, the principal task of state authorities is to secure public order. Certain organizations or extremist groups make attempts to use this day for stirring up ethnic hatred thus discrediting the country's image on the international arena, and they should assume full responsibility for the consequences of such actions.
What was your motivation when you supported the President's decision to go to Moscow to mark the 65th Anniversary of Victory over fascism?
Former President of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga in her time explained Latvia's position with regard to the end of World War Two. Latvia, like other European countries, marks the day when Germany with its totalitarian regime was defeated. A President of Latvia took place in those celebrations five years ago. At that time it was Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. This year's celebrations of 9 May will be attended by President Valdis Zatlers.
Is it possible that still this year President Zatlers will also pay an official visit to Moscow?
Both the Latvian and Russian sides are putting in effort to make President Zatlers' visit to Moscow happen. I do not rule out a possibility that it may take place this year, but it is important that the visit should have a meaningful agenda, also with signing agreements of importance for both countries. On the schedule for this spring there is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Riga.
How would you evaluate current relations between Latvia and Russia?
Since signing the Latvia-Russia border agreement, the relations between both countries have evolved in a businesslike manner. Both countries exchange visits; two years ago I was in Moscow, but this spring we are preparing, for the second time already, to welcome a visit from Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. Actively working on issues vital for both countries is the Latvia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission, where we can find solutions and speak the same language.
For our part, we approach those relations with readiness to address all issues of importance both for our country and for the peoples.
It is not in all the aspects that our positions are identical, but on the whole, given the heavy historical legacy, the relations between our countries have to be estimated positively.
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