MINSK, 24 June (BelTA) – The behavior of individual representatives of the political elite of Latvia demonstrates the continuity of views of Nazi criminals, representatives of the Prosecutor General's Office of Belarus told BelTA as they commented on progress in investigating a criminal case regarding the genocide of the Belarusian people during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
Representatives of the Belarusian prosecution service said that according to archive documents and testimony of witnesses actions of Latvian troops were characterized with particular cruelty and cynicism. Most of their victims were burned alive, drowned, or injured in a way that assured a long and painful death. For instance, in February 1943 residents of the village of Ladelevo were forced into two buildings: men were locked in a house while women and children were locked in a barn. Both buildings were set on fire. Only two residents managed to survive. The other ones perished in fire. Back then residents of the village of Trodovichi, including women and children, were locked in one house, which was set on fire. Trying to escape the fire, the people ran out of the house only to be shot and blown up with grenades. All the residents of the village were killed.
The punitive operation Spring Festival (Fruhlingsfest) was carried out against partisans and civilians in the area of Ushachi District and Lepel District on 11 April – 4 May 1944. Latvian SS troops were part of Jeckeln's group and demonstrated as much violence. Wanton slaughter began in the villages of Knyazevo (Krasnoye), Barsuki, Rozalino, and Morochkovo with the arrival of Latvian SS troops. Witnesses say that when asked why hundreds of unburied bodies of murdered women, elderly, and children were lying on the outskirts of a village, soldiers of the Latvian SS units said they had killed them in order to eliminate as many Russians as possible. Some of the residents had been burned alive.
After the Latvian punishment troops withdrew, seven semiburned bodies of women were found in one of the houses that had been burned down. Wires were attached to a leg of each woman, with the other end nailed to the door frame. About 3,000 bodies of gunned down peasants, primarily women and children, were found in a ravine near the village of Kobyliniki. The residents, who had survived the massacre, said that Latvian SS troops had taken care of the shootings.
Other multiple facts of the atrocities committed by nationalistic punitive forces are being investigated.
The Prosecutor General's Office reminded that war crimes cannot lapse with the passage of time, that the unavoidability of punishment must be secured, that there can be no other way about it.
The source went on saying: “We know that about 400 former Latvian SS troops live in a number of European and American countries. Meanwhile, Latvian authorities honor members of this criminal organization every year and maintain public ties with them abroad. Such meetings of Latvian government officials with Nazi criminals are routine. For instance, a criminal case has been opened in Belarus against Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics. He is accused of stirring up national hatred by desecrating the state flag of Belarus. During an official visit to Canada the Latvian minister of foreign affairs met with members of the Canadian branch of Daugava's Hawks [Daugavas Vanagi] organization, which has been set up by veterans of the Latvian SS legion. We should note that Belarusian criminal laws just like laws of other countries treat actions meant to rehabilitate the Nazism ideology as a crime of stirring up national hatred and discord. Thus, the behavior of individual representatives of the political elite of Latvia demonstrates the continuity of views of Nazi criminals.”
The investigation team also has information about 22 former members of Latvian SS legions, who now live in Latvia. The investigation will have to ascertain the role of each legionnaire in the slaughter of civilians in Belarus. This is why the Prosecutor General's Office of Belarus has contacted Latvian colleagues.
The Prosecutor General's Office of Belarus assumes that the Latvian colleagues will demonstrate a reverent attitude to preserving the memory of the innocent Belarusians killed by the Nazi butcherers and will provide legal assistance in full. Similar requests concerning Latvian executioners have been sent to other countries.