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Moscow ensures protests near Estonian Embassy lawful -Lavrov

Russian authorities are making sure that demonstrations in front of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow remain within the law, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Estonian counterpart.
MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russian authorities are making sure that demonstrations in front of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow remain within the law, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Estonian counterpart.

The embassy has been under siege by pro-Kremlin youth activists of the Nashi (Ours) movement since last week when Estonian authorities removed a monument to a Soviet World War II soldier in central Tallinn to a war cemetery on the outskirts.

"The Estonian minister expressed his concern over the situation near the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, and Russian law enforcement officers are doing everything possible to make sure that protesters besieging the embassy... act within the law," Lavrov told Urmas Paet over the phone.

Relations between Russia and Estonia hit their lowest after Estonian authorities dismantled the monument ahead of Victory Day, which is marked May 9 in Russia, saying it was a reminder of 50 years of Soviet occupation. The monument is dear to Russians as a sign of victory over the Nazis.

The Baltic state, a European Union (EU) member since 2004, complained of security threats against its diplomatic staff after protesters tore down a flag from the embassy building in Moscow and mobbed Ambassador Marina Kaljurand before a news conference Wednesday.

EU officials and U.S. authorities backed Estonia's right to remove the monument and expressed concern "about continuing reports of violence and harassment" near the embassy. The EU commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said the Russia-EU summit in Russia's Samara set for May 17-18 would have to consider the conflict if the two countries fail to defuse tensions themselves.

NATO also issued a statement, expressing its deep concern over the security of Estonian diplomats and urged Russia to observe the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

The monument removal sparked a wave of violent protests, mostly by ethnic Russians, in Tallinn, which left one Russian stabbed to death and many arrested. Moscow said the protests were "a natural reaction" and accused Estonian police of human rights violations. Lavrov demanded an investigation into the murder of Dmitry Ganin and immediate access to the detained Russian protesters.

"Russia demands an urgent and unbiased investigation into all incidents of human rights violations during these events," the Foreign Ministry Web site quoted Lavrov as saying.

Mikhail Margelov, speaker of the Russian upper house, called on Russian protesters to be more restrained and warned against any violence against diplomats. "Because it will undermine positions of the negotiating sides which will have to put up with the need to reconcile," he said.

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn has been invited to attend a gala ceremony devoted to Victory Day, celebrated May 8 in Europe, which will include a visit to the war cemetery where the Soviet monument has been moved. "The invitation is being considered," Maxim Kozlov, the embassy's press attache, said.

Estonia's Foreign Ministry has said it would inaugurate the monument officially in June after the remains of 13 Soviet soldiers killed in the war and buried near the original monument site have been exhumed and reburied.

Transportation links, possible economic sanctions

Last week, Russian parliamentarians urged President Vladimir Putin to sever ties with the former Soviet country, and reports emerged this week that the Russian Railways company could revise its schedule of cargo delivery to the Baltic countries, including Estonia, following damage to a railroad section. But the state-controlled railway monopoly dismissed the reports, saying cargo traffic would be unrestricted.

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said possible sanctions on Russia's behalf would hardly be a serious blow to the Estonian economy. "It is not serious, and it would be more of a problem for Russia, because most of Russian transit goes via Estonia," Ansip told a news conference.

"Luckily, thanks to double tariff duties and sanctions introduced [by Russia in post-Soviet times], 80% of investment comes into Estonia from Sweden and Finland, and only 2% from Russia," he said. "Our economy is closely linked to the Swedish and Finnish economies, and has only loose ties with Russia."

The Estonian newspaper Aripaev said Thursday Estonian travel agencies were canceling tours to Moscow and St. Petersburg over their inability to guarantee the security of their tourists.

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