Donetsk flag flies in Latvia as Russians mark Victory Day

The flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People`s Republic flew in Riga Friday in a show of support from Latvia`s large Russian minority for pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine.

AFP| Last Updated: May 09, 2014, 20:38 PM IST

Riga: The flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People`s Republic flew in Riga Friday in a show of support from Latvia`s large Russian minority for pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine.

"It is unfortunate that there are people trying to mar a commemorative event with such provocations," Latvian foreign ministry spokesman Karlis Eihenbaums told AFP.

A group mostly made up of ethnic Russians converged on the capital`s Soviet Victory Monument to lay flowers while veterans proudly displayed their medals to mark 69 years since the end of World War II.

Pro-Russia activist Vladimirs Lindermans and others flew the flag of the eastern Ukraine separatists who have dubbed themselves the Donetsk People`s Republic in support of their secession drive. 

Lindermans spearheaded a failed 2012 attempt to make Russian an official state language in this ex-Soviet Baltic EU member of two million people, around a quarter of whom are ethnic Russians.

"The southeast isn`t a part of Ukraine and never has been," he told AFP.

"The people fighting today in Donetsk and Lugansk want freedom and rule of law... and I am here to support them."

Riga mayor Nils Usakovs and Russian ambassador to Latvia Aleksandr Veshnyakov laid flowers earlier at the Soviet war memorial but declined to comment to the press. 

Usakovs is leader of the pro-Russian Harmony Centre political party -- the largest in Latvia`s parliament. 

It draws most of its support from the Russian minority and has a cooperation agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin`s United Russia party.

But the Harmony Centre has never found the coalition partners it needs to form a government, as other Latvian parties repeatedly unite to thwart it.

Known as "Victory Day" to Russians, May 9 is divisive in Latvia.
While ethnic Russians regard it as a celebration of the day Nazi forces surrendered to the Red Army in Berlin in 1945, many Latvians feel it simply marks the start of a 50-year occupation by the Soviet Union.
Latvia officially marks victory over the Third Reich on May 8, the day the Germans surrendered in Paris.