Latvian drivers may face detainment and charges for displaying Russian-language bumper stickers on their vehicles, according to a recent statement from the Latvian Police. The police made this announcement on social media after receiving several complaints from Latvian citizens about cars with Russian bumper stickers. The police warned that these “potentially provocative inscriptions in Russian” are not allowed on vehicles due to the current geopolitical situation.
Those found with such decals on their cars can be questioned, detained, and charged with the administrative offense of “glorifying military aggression or war crimes”. To avoid these consequences, individuals must immediately remove the offending sticker and provide an explanation for possessing and displaying it.
Additionally, the Latvian Police encouraged citizens to report their neighbors if they spot cars with Russian stickers. It seems that, based on the police’s posting history, anything in the Russian language can potentially be seen as provocative. Stickers such as “я – русский” (“I am Russian”), “СИЛА В ПРАВДЕ” (“Power is in the Truth”), and any featuring bears are explicitly banned.
This latest move comes after the European Union implemented sanctions prohibiting the entry of Russian-registered vehicles into its 27-country bloc earlier this month. In response, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have begun turning away vehicles with Russian license plates from their borders. In retaliation, Moscow has threatened to recall diplomats from Brussels and impose similar restrictions on European traffic.
This is not the first time Latvia has implemented strict regulations regarding public displays. Last year, the country banned the public display of the letters Z and V, claiming their use by Russian troops in the Ukraine conflict glorified war crimes and military aggression. Those who display the letter Z in public can be fined up to €400, and companies can be charged €3,200. Latvia also forbade holding public events within 200 meters of any monument commemorating the Soviet Army.
The law banning the letter Z was adopted following a call from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba to “criminalize” its use, as he believed it showed support for Russian “barbarism.” Latvia was the first to comply, followed by Lithuania and Estonia, who also banned the black and orange St. George’s ribbon displayed on Soviet victory medals.
While Latvia has laws against the glorification of Nazism and Communism, it seems that hundreds of individuals gather annually to honor the country’s Nazi collaborators without police interference.
In conclusion, Latvian drivers must avoid displaying Russian-language bumper stickers on their vehicles to avoid potential detainment and charges. This move comes amidst EU sanctions on Russian-registered vehicles and retaliation from Russia, as well as previous strict regulations on public displays in Latvia.