VILNIUS (Lithuania), July 11 — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania summoned Russian envoys this week to protest plans by Moscow to celebrate the Soviet Union’s World War II occupation of the three Baltic nations, underscoring persisting tensions.
The EU and Nato members called Moscow’s plans to mark the 1944 Soviet capture of Baltic capitals from Nazi Germany with fireworks and artillery salutes “cynical” and “provocative”, foreign ministry statements said.
According to Russia’s defence ministry, the events are intended to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Red Army’s defeat of Nazi German forces in a string of European cities.
“The whole world must remember once again that it was our Red Army that saved Europe from slavery,” the ministry’s Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) news bulletin said in April.
Soviet rule in the Baltic states was marked by the brutal repression of political opponents and mass deportations, including women and children, to Gulag forced labour camps in Siberia.
“The Allied victory against the Nazis was extremely important for the destiny of Europe, but the end of WWII did not bring freedom to Lithuania,” its Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP.
“It brought nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation that included murders and deportations,” he added, after Vilnius summoned a Russian representative in protest earlier today.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics called the planned celebrations a “cynical attempt to rewrite history” in a tweet today.
Estonia’s top diplomat Urmas Reinsalu called Russian plans to mark the Soviet occupation of Tallinn with fireworks a “provocative step”.
The Soviets invaded the Baltic states in 1940 under their infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Nazi Germany. A year later, in June, they deported some 43,000 Baltic citizens.
That drive was cut short when Germany turned on its former allies the same month, pushing the Red Army out of the Baltic region as it invaded the Soviet Union.
In 1944-45, the Soviets put an end to the Nazi occupation — during which almost all of the region’s Jews were killed — heralding the renewed deportations of hundreds of thousands to Siberia.
Soviet terror and forced conscription into the Red Army prompted the armed resistance in the Baltics between 1944-1953, most active in Lithuania.
It was only in 1991 that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia restored independence, before joining the European Union and Nato in 2004. — AFP