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Moscow studying Estonia's request to help identify WWII remains

MOSCOW, May 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry is studying Estonia's request to help identify the remains of Soviet World War II soldiers whose exhumation late last month sparked a diplomatic row between the two nations.

"We have received the request, and we are considering it," Mikhail Kamynin, the ministry's official spokesman, said in response to the document received Monday, while Russian forensic experts have expressed readiness to identify the remains.

The remains of the soldiers, who fought against the Nazis on Estonian soil, were buried in 1947 in central Tallinn, with a monument to the Soviet soldier placed on the grave. Estonian authorities decided to remove the monument to a cemetery on the outskirts and exhume the remains in late April, which led to mass protests by ethnic Russians and clashes with police, leaving one killed and hundreds arrested.

The press service of the Estonian Foreign Ministry said forensic experts had studied the remains and concluded that they belonged to 12 adults. The ministry said Estonia needed DNA samples from two close relatives of the soldiers for identification. The Estonian ministry also said the remains would be reburied at the military cemetery in late June and offered to cover the expenses for two relatives of each soldier to attend the ceremony.

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 symbol of victory over the Nazis.

The president, premier and parliamentary speaker of the Baltic state, a European Union (EU) member since 2004, released a statement Tuesday, Victory Day in Europe, saying "the end of WWII was victory over tyrants for many but marked the replacement of one regime with another for many others."

"Estonia knows how valuable a free and democratic society is, and here everybody can celebrate their victories and grieve over their losses," the statement said. "But this must be done with dignity and respect for oneself and others."

Estonian government officials laid flowers at the relocated Soviet monument at the military cemetery in Tallinn Tuesday.

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