Russian embassy warns EU state it might end up in debt
Talk of “reparations” over Soviet rule could see Latvia owing Moscow money rather than the other way around, the diplomats said
The Russian embassy in Riga has poked fun at Latvian media reports that a state commission is working on establishing “damages” from the Soviet “occupation” of the Baltic state, which is now a member of the EU and NATO. If Latvians really wanted reparations from occupiers, they shouldn’t give a pass to Poland, Sweden or the Teutonic Order, the embassy said on Wednesday. It also warned that Riga could end up owing Russia money after they tally all the Soviet investments in infrastructure and industry.
According to statements in some local media, the “commission on accounting of damages from the Soviet occupation” is soon expected to present a report on alleged financial losses Latvia suffered between 1940 and 1991, the embassy said.
“We never cease to be surprised at the selectivity of Latvian officials. After all, a fair accounting would also take into consideration the losses from the occupation of Latvian land by the German crusaders, the [Polish-Lithuanian] Commonwealth and Sweden,” the Russian diplomats said, noting that this accounts for more than 500 years of foreign rule.
If the commission tallied up the entire housing, transport, communication, port and industrial infrastructure built from scratch in the Latvian Soviet Republic, the embassy added, “Latvia would end up with a bill to pay instead!”
Imperial Russia ruled the territory of present-day Latvia from 1795 to 1920, developing Riga into the empire’s largest port. Some 40,000 men served in the Latvian Rifles, an elite imperial infantry corps, during the First World War. The majority joined the Bolshevik revolution, with one of their officers, Colonel Jukums Vacietis, becoming the first commanding general of the Red Army.
Though they played a key role in winning the Russian civil war for the Reds, the Latvian Rifles lost the war in their own home province to a coalition of German, Polish and Estonian troops. In 1920, the Bolshevik government signed the Treaty of Riga, recognizing an independent Latvia. In August 1940, however, a pro-Soviet government made a bid for admission into the USSR.
During the Second World War, Latvia was occupied by Nazi Germany. Two Waffen-SS units, the 15th and 19th grenadiers, were raised as the Latvian Legion. Around 10,000 of them continued to wage guerrilla war against the USSR until 1956, calling themselves “Forest Brothers.”
Latvia declared independence in August 1991, and to this day denies citizenship to ethnic Russians living in its territory.