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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 17:23 GMT
Latvia to join Moscow war tribute
By Steven Paulikas
BBC Baltic states correspondent

Vaira Vike-Freiberga
Ms Vike-Freiberga became Latvian leader after 50 years abroad
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has said she will attend celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Critics say the ceremonies legitimise the Soviet Union's occupation of Latvia at the end of the war.

In a country that was so often the victim of history, events from the past still dominate the national agenda.

Months of passionate debate preceded the president's decision to go to Moscow on 9 May.

There, she will join other world leaders to commemorate the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

While 9 May is commemorated in the Soviet - and later Russian - popular consciousness, in Latvia and the neighbouring Baltic states (Lithuania and Estonia) the date evokes five decades spent under uninvited Soviet rule.

By accepting the invitation of her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Ms Vike-Freiberga has chosen to strengthen strained relations between the two countries.

She will also appease Latvia's large ethnic Russian minority, which has complained of government discrimination.

But to many Latvians, the president's act of solidarity with Russia betrays their costly struggle for independence.

Some MPs have already called on Ms Vike-Freiberga to use the occasion as a platform to express Latvia's version of the past.

Country profile: Latvia
02 Dec 04 |  Country profiles
Profile: Vaira Vike-Freiberga
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