RIGA, February 7 (RIA Novosti) - Latvia’s Foreign Ministry expressed regret on Thursday over the recent remarks by Russian Ambassador Alexander Veshnyakov denying Soviet occupation of the country.
“It has to be stated with regret that addressing a meeting of the Latvian Council of Public Organizations on February 6, Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Veshnyakov denied the fact of the Soviet occupation of Latvia and announced that Russia does not recognize the Soviet occupation of Latvia,” the Baltic country’s Foreign Ministry press service said.
“Such rhetoric is not conducive to a positive environment of our dialog.”
Latvia’s official position is that it was occupied by the USSR from 1940 through 1991. Russia as a successor to the USSR does not recognize the occupation.
Russia has long been at odds with the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, as well as Poland, over perceived attempts to rewrite the history of World War II and diminish the Soviet role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
While Russia maintains that the Red Army liberated the Baltic States from German invaders, many residents of the republics put the two occupations on a par, citing mass Stalin-era deportations.
In 2010, the Lithuanian parliament approved amendments stipulating criminal penalties for those publicly justifying, denying or playing down international crimes, as well as crimes "committed by the USSR" and the Nazis against Lithuania.
Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its independence in March 1990. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called the declaration "illegitimate and invalid" and sent Soviet tanks to the capital, Vilnius. Although the tanks withdrew after a few hours, Soviet troops were still stationed in Lithuania. More than 10 people were killed and many more were injured during protests that started when Soviet troops tried to seize the television station in Vilnius in January 1991.