Winter Olympic Games: Latvia’s President to attend Sochi opening ceremony

 Latvia’s President Andris Berzins will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, his spokeswoman said.

Confirmation of the Latvian leader’s attendance on February 7 came a day after the US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, dropped heavy hints that President Barack Obama would skip the ceremony and send a delegation instead.

Relations between Latvia and Russia have been strained by differing views of the aftermath of World War II. Latvia’s official position is that it was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 until independence in 1991.

Russia, as a successor to the Soviet Union, disagrees and argues that Latvia and the other Baltic States of Lithuania and Estonia are attempting to diminish the Soviet role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile, Germany’s President Joachim Gauck will not attend the opening ceremony, magazine, Der Spiegel reported, in what has been widely seen as a protest over human rights issues in Russia.

Poland, which has often had tense relations with Russia, has vowed to send a delegation. But it will not include Prime Minister Donald Tusk and may not feature President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Georgia, which fought a war with Russia in 2008, has said that it will send athletes to compete in Sochi but no government officials.

The opening ceremony will be held at the 40,000-seater Fisht Olympic Stadium in the center of the coastal Olympic Park.

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