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Former Waffen SS veterans demonstrate in Riga despite ban


RIGA, March 16 (RIA Novosti) - Former Waffen SS veterans and their supporters held a demonstration in the Latvian capital on Monday despite a ban by the Riga Duma, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

About 100 people, including representatives from a radical Latvian party, took part in the parade as part of Legionnaire's Day that commemorates Latvians, who fought on the side of the Germans during WWII.

Several dozen representatives from Latvia's anti-fascist committee met them chanting "Hitler Kaput," but police prevented any clashes between the WWII veterans and anti-fascist demonstrators.

Despite the ban on Legionnaire's Day parades, police promised not to prevent veterans and participants from laying flowers at the Freedom Monument.

In the past, parades in honor of the Waffen-SS legionnaires, involving veterans from the Latvian Legion and the 20th Estonian SS Division and their supporters, have been an annual event in Latvia and Estonia.

The dismantling in Tallinn, capital of Estonia, of the Soviet war memorial, the Bronze Soldier, just before the May 9, 2007 Victory Day celebrations in Russia led to street protests in which over 1,000 people were arrested and one Russian national was killed.

Relations between Russia and Latvia and Estonia have also been strained over what Moscow calls the two states' unequal treatment of ethnic Russians, the alleged persecution of Soviet WWII veterans, and the apparent revival of nationalism and fascism.

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