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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 15:01 GMT
Latvian SS march sparks clashes
Protesters in Latvia
SS veterans' marches cause outrage among Russian-speakers in Latvia
Latvia police have made dozens of arrests after pro-Russian activists tried to bloc a march of SS veterans and young nationalists in Riga.

The veterans had fought against Soviet troops on the side of Hitler's Germany in World War II.

The march in the capital was sanctioned by the Latvian authorities and took place amidst heavy police presence.

But it was interrupted by skirmishes which broke out as marchers came across the anti-fascists' human chain.

The protesters, mostly from the pro-Russian Rodina or Motherland organisation, were wearing striped clothes and yellow stars of David in a reference to the SS atrocities in Latvia, which lost 90% of its Jewish population in World War II.

Riga city council deputy Aleksandrs Gilmans told the Russian RIA agency by phone from a police station that almost all of the protesters had been detained, including himself.

Police put the number of the detainees at around 25 and say arrests were made on both sides.

War controversy

After the clashes, the veterans and their supporters from the nationalist Klubs-415 youth group proceeded to lay flowers at the statue of Freedom in the centre of Riga.

Former members of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion, formed during the German occupation of Latvia, have been staging similar events since the country regained independence in 1991.

Many had joined the Germans because they saw them as liberators after a brief, but brutal, Soviet occupation of Latvia between 1939 and 1941.

But Latvia also had a large-scale guerrilla movement that fought against both the Germans and the Soviets during and after World War II.

The resurgence of SS veterans is causing outrage among Latvia's large Russian-speaking population, which includes ethnic Jews.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scenes of the scuffles between the two groups



SEE ALSO:
Man to fulfil 'Latvian promise'
25 Sep 04 |  South Yorkshire
Protests mark Latvia's EU entry
01 May 04 |  Europe
Timeline: Latvia
06 Feb 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Latvia
06 Feb 05 |  Country profiles


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