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Moscow opposes Estonian plan to rebury Soviet soldiers - ministry

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday it is firmly against Estonia's plans to exhume and rebury the remains of Soviet soldiers resting near the Bronze Soldier statue in central Tallinn.
MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday it is firmly against Estonia's plans to exhume and rebury the remains of Soviet soldiers resting near the Bronze Soldier statue in central Tallinn.

Last Wednesday, the Estonian minister of defense said that the reburial process would begin at the end of April, while Estonian mass media reported that the ministry had drafted a detailed plan on how the graves were to be dug up, and how the remains of soldiers would be identified and reburied. Reports also said the ministry had a plan on how to dismantle and move the Bronze Soldier statue.

In a note given to the Estonian Ambassador in Russia, the ministry said "it calls on the Estonian authorities to refuse plans to move the monument and remains of soldiers, aimed at reviewing the role of the anti-Hitler coalition countries in the victory over fascism during World War II and that contradict not only norms of international law, but elemental basics of human morals and humanism."

"As the note also states the Russian Foreign Ministry hopes that Estonia's authorities will refrain from steps that would result in very serious consequences in relations between Russia and Estonia," the ministry said.

Last Thursday the government of Estonia decided to transfer control of all the country's military cemeteries to the Defense Ministry. The ministry now has independent authority to decide without any input from municipal authorities where to locate cemeteries and how to maintain them.

Estonia's commission on wartime burials recommended March 13 removing the World War II Bronze Soldier statue, which is part of a Soviet-era memorial, from central Tallinn to a "quieter" military cemetery, in accordance with a new law passed in January.

The six-foot Bronze Soldier and other Soviet memorials have recently become rallying points for ethnic Russians, and following clashes with Estonian nationalists near the statues the authorities called for monuments "dividing society" to be removed.

Russia has accused Estonia of encouraging Nazism and discrimination against ethnic Russians, and even prompted a debate on possible energy sanctions against Estonia. Moscow has also called for international organizations to step in.

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