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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvian SS Vets March Amid Furor




RIGA, Latvia -- Hundreds of Latvian Waffen SS veterans paraded through the capital on Tuesday to remember their World War II fight on the Russian front, despite criticism the event was an insult to Holocaust victims.


Some 146,000 Latvians were drafted by the Nazis into a Waffen SS unit in 194-44 in a last-ditch mobilization after setbacks at the hands of the Soviet army.


After a ceremony in a packed cathedral, the veterans paraded through Riga's old town to lay flowers at the country's Monument to Freedom. Most of the 1,000 onlookers were supporters.


Police said the march was peaceful except for a minor scuffle after a veteran displayed aposter supporting the Nazis.


Ninety-five percent of Latvia's prewar population of 70,000 Jews were murdered during the occupation by the Nazis, who swept through the Baltics in 1941 after pushing out Soviet troops who had annexed the region in 1940.


The government shunned the march, which coincided with a national remembrance day for all fallen soldiers, forbidding the armed forces from taking part.


It also said remembrance day would be commemorated on a different day next year, most likely Nov. 11.


Russia sharply condemned Tuesday's march.


The decision and the march "can be assessed only as blasphemy toward those who fought fascism and the memory of the many millions of victims of that criminal ideology," Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin was quoted as saying in Moscow by Itar-Tass.