Russian charge ruffles Latvian-Americans

A recently renewed Russian government accusation that Latvia is trying to revise its history of war crimes has ruffled some Latvian-Americans.

Latvia has been following a “policy of rehabilitation and celebration of war criminals,” according to a press release posted earlier this week on the Web site of the Russian Federation’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. A similar accusation is leveled against Estonia.

The accusation, argue some Latvian-Americans in e-mails received by Latvians Online, is part of a “smear campaign” by the Russian mission.

Not so, said Alexander Ilchenko of the Russian mission’s press office. The press releases, which originally were issued Feb. 13 by the Russian Foreign Ministry, were meant to draw attention to attempts to revise wartime history in Latvia and Estonia.

The timing of the releases was not meant to coincide with any upcoming event, Ilchenko told Latvians Online.

However, Latvia and Estonia both are scheduled in May to join the NATO defense alliance and the European Union. The Russian government has raised concerns about the two nations’ membership in both organizations.

Also, an exhibition by the Occupation Museum that illustrates what happened under the Nazi and Soviet takeovers of Latvia is scheduled for a two-week run in the United Nations beginning March 25.

The press release about Latvia discusses, among other points, the rise of pro-fascist organizations in Latvia before and during World War II, as well as the executions of Jews and Soviet citizens carried out by the Arajs Command during the war. The release further claims Latvia is attempting to rehabilitate the memory of those who served with German troops during the war.

Gints Jegermanis, Latvia’s ambassador to the United Nations, declined comment on the Russian press release except to say that its contents no doubt will be discussed during consultations between officials of the Latvian and Russian foreign ministries scheduled Feb. 27 in Rīga.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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