Lithuania: Walmart to remove Soviet-themed shirts

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Walmart has agreed to remove shirts with Soviet emblems from its online shop after three Baltic countries complained about the clothing, Lithuanian authorities said Tuesday.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were forcibly annexed by Moscow in 1940 and remained part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, except for a brief occupation by Nazi Germany 1941-1944.

Lithuania has been taking a particularly hard line against its communist-era legacy, banning all Soviet symbols as well as Nazi ones.

Its foreign ministry's spokeswoman, Rasa Jakilaitiene, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the government "received a letter from Walmart this week confirming that these items would be removed from sales." She did not specify by when that would happen.

The Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, Rolandas Krisciunas, had written to Walmart urging the company to withdraw the items, saying "horrific crimes were done under the Soviet symbols of a sickle and hammer," and "the promotion of such symbols resonates with a big pain for many centuries."

Earlier this month, a group of lawmakers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had written another letter to Walmart to make a similar demand.

There was no immediate reaction from Walmart, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.

It seemed from the site that it is a third-party company that is selling the shirts through Walmart Inc.'s page. Similar shirts were also on sale on Amazon's regional sites, but the lawmakers' letter did not mention the company.

Jakilaitiene said Lithuania would ask that clothing with Soviet symbols be removed from Amazon.com, too.

In May, German sports gear maker Adidas agreed to remove a red tank top with the letters USSR and emblems of the Soviet Union from its online store. The item was being sold ahead of the soccer World Cup in Russia.

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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