Covering this year's gathering at the foot of the Sinimäed Hills, Estonian news hub Delfi.ee noted that this year's event, which was attended by a few hundred people, was smaller than the one held last year, when the veterans commemorated the 70th anniversary of a months-long battle in northeast Estonia against advancing Soviet forces during the Second World War. The battle, which saw the participation of the newly formed 20th Waffen SS Grenadier Division, resulted in nearly 200,000 casualties on both sides. Over 17,000 Red Army soldiers are buried in cemetery of the village of Sinimäe. The 20th Waffen SS Grenadier Division had been formed between early-mid 1944 following a general draft, with 38,000 men conscripted to serve in the unit.
Эстонские ветераны СС провели ежегодный сбор pic.twitter.com/zSMgYM30jS— Olga Katsaros (@InfoKatsaros) 25 июля 2015
Estonian SS veterans held their annual gathering
According to Delfi, the meeting featured "patriotic anti-Russian speeches," with Conservative People's Party of Estonia MP Jaak Madison speaking "on the need to protect Estonia from the Russian military threat." Incidentally Madison, whose political career appeared to take a hit earlier this year following the discovery of a blog post where he praised Nazi ideology and stated that it "consists of many positive nuances necessary for preserving the nation-state," also serves as the Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for EU Affairs. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Trivimi Velliste was also in attendance, welcoming the event's participants.
A new addition to this year's meeting was the attendance of a small group of Russian ultranationalists, who came to lay a wreath at the legionnaires' memorial; the wreath featured the words 'Glory to Heroes' inscribed on its ribbons.
For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the commemorative events taking place at Sinimäe, saying they are an open attempt to glorify the Nazis and their accomplices, and voicing its regret that such events can continue to take place in state which is part of the European Union.
During the Second World War, over 80,000 Estonians volunteered or were drafted into the ranks of Hitler's armies, with another 3,000 volunteering to serve in the Finnish army. Over 27,000 Estonians served in the Red Army's 8th Estonian Rifle Unit, with thousands more serving in other units. An estimated 21,200 Estonians gave up their lives fighting for the Red Army.