Shots in Riga: military exercise overkill?
Namejs 2021, Latvia's largest military exercise of the year involving around 10,000 soldiers, is taking place between the end of August and 3 October. Urban drills with soldiers shooting blanks drills were staged in the centre of Riga on the weekend, causing fear and confusion among passers-by who had apparently not been informed and triggering outrage on social media. Latvia's press shows understanding for the anger but stresses the need for such simulation exercises to prepare for the future.
This is what hybrid war looks like
According to Diena all the fuss is mainly due to a lack of communication:
“For some citizens, heavily-armed soldiers running through the city, taking cover behind the corners of buildings and shooting into the air from time to time may seem exaggerated and frightening. But if the public had been informed that this was a military exercise aimed at simulating a situation under the conditions of a hybrid war, where the enemy is already moving on the streets of Riga but is 'invisible', difficult to identify and possibly supported by pro-Russian forces, conscientious Latvian citizens would hardly have been upset.”
Schock therapy provides important insights
Latvijas Avīze comments on a video that caused a lot of public commotion in which a woman holding a screaming child encounters soldiers with rifles at the ready:
“The episode, much discussed on social media, took place near the Ministry of Defence. In many countries it is forbidden to go through such buildings. But in our country they say that if someone is frightened by the presence of the army or the sound of a gunfight in the centre of Riga, then they should simply take a different route. In this sense, the exercise was a valuable lesson for the army and the Ministry of Defence. ... Because it allows real conclusions to be drawn about how society would react if a real war situation were to arise in the centre of the capital.”