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23:50 GMT +3 hours21 December 2014
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Russia

Moscow expresses concern over Estonia "squeezing out" Russian military retirees

Russia
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MOSCOW, October 27 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement Thursday saying that it is seriously concerned over the Estonian authorities' policy of "squeezing out" Russian military pensioners.

The statement was issued following the detention in Estonia of retired military officer Anatoly Galitsky. According to Russian officials, Galitsky was illegally denied a residence permit extension and threatened with expulsion. Estonians said he had obtained a housing voucher from a U.S.-Russian program to assist the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Estonia, yet refused to leave for his native Russia.

Another Russian military retiree, Nikolai Mikolenko, has been held in a deportation camp in Estonia since 2003, the ministry said. The man, put into custody after he refused to leave the country when his residence permit expired, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to prevent his deportation.

Estonia committed itself to providing social guarantees for Russian military pensioners, including the right to obtain residence permits, as part of a July 1994 accord between then-presidents Boris Yeltsin and Lennart Meri, which also provided for a speedy pullout of Russian military bases.

Discrimination against the Russian community has been a major source of controversy between Moscow and Tallinn since Estonia gained independence in 1991. Ethnic Russians make up about a quarter of the country's 1.6 million inhabitants, but at least 300,000 are without citizenship. They have no vote in elections, cannot work in the public administration and face difficulties getting jobs in the service sector.