60,000 run to mark Baltic human chain anniversary

Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:50pm EDT
 
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RIGA (Reuters) - About 60,000 people took part in a two-day run to mark the 20th anniversary of a 600 km (375 mile) human chain that showed Balts' wish to regain their independence from the Soviet Union, organizers said Sunday.

The run, which began in Estonian capital Tallinn and Lithuanian capital Vilnius Saturday, ended Sunday evening in the Latvian capital Riga. Latvian President Valdis Zatlers took part in the final kilometre in the city center.

"The most were in Latvia, about 50,000," said a spokeswoman for the Heartbeat for the Baltics run, which was the centrepiece event of the anniversary. "There were about 5,000 in Lithuania and about 7,000 in Estonia."

The high Latvian turnout was due to the fact that more of the run took part in day light there, she said.

The Baltic Way was a peaceful protest in which more than 1 million people linked hands across the three Baltic states.

It was one of the largest mass demonstrations in the former Soviet Union and one of the key events on the road to the Balts regaining their independence in 1991.

The date of August 23, 1989, was chosen as the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which the Balts say led to their occupation by the Soviet Union and rule for 50 years.

 
<p>People participate in the Baltic Run event near Riga August 23, 2009. More than 50,000 people from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia participated in the 680-km (423-mile) relay from Vilnius and Tallinn to Riga to commemorate the Baltic Way human chain that took place on August 23, 1989. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins</p>