The city council in the Latvian capital, Riga, has agreed to dismantle a contentious Soviet monument in the city center.
The decision was made during a special session on May 13, with police surrounding the building where the meeting was held.
Most Latvians see the monument in the city center as more a symbol of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Latvia than its purported purpose of honoring the liberation of the city from Germany in World War II.
It is unclear when the nearly 80-meter-tall obelisk and accompanying giant bronze statues in Riga’s Victory Park will be dismantled, but the city’s monument authorities have been instructed to take it down.
The issue of Soviet monuments in Latvia, which was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union until 1991, has dogged relations between Riga and Moscow.
Moscow’s relationship with EU- and NATO-member Latvia has been further strained by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and heightened rhetoric from the Kremlin regarding the Baltic states.
Police in Riga reportedly arrested several people at an unauthorized protest against the dismantling of the monument that was staged by members of Latvia’s sizeable ethnic Russian minority on May 14.
Demonstrations were also held in front of the Latvian Embassy in Moscow.
On May 12, Latvian lawmakers approved a bill that would allow the Soviet monument to be dismantled. The bill amended a 1994 agreement between Latvia and Russia on the preservation of Soviet-era monuments.
“The changed geopolitical conditions…mean that Latvia can’t and won’t be bound to preserve…monuments to the Soviet occupation,” Rihards Kols, the chairman of parliament’s commission on foreign affairs, said in explaining the move.
Kols added that Latvia will continue to fulfill its international obligations regarding burials and cemeteries holding the remains of Soviet troops.
Latvia has approved many post-independence laws aimed at weeding out Russian influence and boosting the status of Latvian language and culture.