Comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a statement publicised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russia Federation

12.01.2018. 18:23

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs fully rejects the unsubstantiated allegations made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in relation to a Latvian law “On the status of a participant of World War II”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that neither was the Republic of Latvia a belligerent country in World War II, nor among the countries that started World War II. Latvia was a victim of that war, as its statehood was annihilated as the result of the military aggression of the Soviet Union enabled by the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Stalin’s Soviet Union and Nazi Germany on 23 August 1939 whereby both aggressors divided Europe into their spheres of influence.

World War II brought immense suffering and loss to the people of Latvia. During the war, the Soviet occupation regime was replaced by that of Nazi occupation, which was followed by another period of Soviet occupation lasting for 45 years. Because of the war, the Republic of Latvia lost nearly one-third of its population. During World War II, both warring sides – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – in breach of the 1907 Hague Convention, unlawfully drafted Latvian residents to serve in their military formations, these people becoming the victims of the two regimes.

To do away with illegalities committed during the years of Soviet occupation and restore historical justice, as well as to ensure the rights and legal status that Latvian citizens are entitled to, the Law grants the status of a participant in World War II to Latvian citizens who, during the war, fought against the USSR or Nazi Germany in regular military units of other countries. The purpose of the law is to promote common understanding among society about World War II and equal treatment of its participants.

Pursuant to the new law, the status of a World War II participant will be granted to Latvian citizens – the former members of regular military units fighting against the USSR or Nazi Germany who were Latvian citizens on 17 June 1940 or persons who had legally entered Latvia and were its permanent residents on the said date.

The said persons can qualify for the status of a participant of war if they are not subject to any of the restrictions laid down in the law. Persons and their family members who entered Latvia pursuant to the Soviet-Latvian Mutual Assistance Treaty of 5 October 1939 on the establishment of military bases will not be recognised as participants in World War II.

We would like to underline in particular that the status will not be conferred on persons convicted for crimes against humanity or similar crimes. The new act of legislature absolutely precludes giving the status to persons who have operated in repressive structures of one or the other warring side or have perpetrated war crimes or crimes against humanity. This refers to members of the National Socialist German Workers Party or its paramilitary organisation and the secret police and the security service of that regime. Neither will the status be given to persons who have served in the Committee for State Security of the USSR or the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, except employees of the committee’s planning, finance, administrative and economic departments.

The participants of World War II will be issued with special certificates and memorial badges. It has also been determined that local authorities will be free to decide on social guarantees for the participants of war and, within the limits of municipal budgets, to grant them allowances, reductions of municipal charges or service fees.  

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates that, during World War II, Latvia came under the occupation of two totalitarian regimes – those of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The State of Latvia consistently condemns the crimes against humanity committed by both totalitarian regimes, denounces the Holocaust and commemorates their victims.

Since the state of Latvia was de facto non-existent during World War II, Latvia cannot be responsible for crimes committed by the occupational powers in its territory.

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