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    Russian MPs to take up Estonian "police brutality" at PACE

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    Russia's lower house of parliament has evidence of police brutality during riots provoked by the removal of a Soviet war memorial in Estonia's capital in late April, the house speaker said Thursday.

    MOSCOW, May 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's lower house of parliament has evidence of police brutality during riots provoked by the removal of a Soviet war memorial in Estonia's capital in late April, the house speaker said Thursday.

    Boris Gryzlov said the State Duma would demand an emergency debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on human rights violations in Estonia and would provide material gathered by a group of lawmakers that visited the Baltic state last week.

    Gryzlov said the lawmakers had collected evidence of a cruel and inhumane treatment of protesters by police, including photos and video footage. "We have received material exposing the brutal treatment. ... It will allow us to initiate an emergency debate at PACE," he said.

    The removal of a statue to a Red Army soldier from central Tallinn April 27 sparked riots among Russian speakers in the small Baltic state, when one protester was killed, dozens injured and over 1,000 arrested.

    Police used rubber bullets, water cannons and pepper gas to disperse protesters. Media reports in Russia said hundreds of those arrested had been kept at sea port facilities, and TV footage showed beatings and protesters demonstrating their injuries and complaining of police brutality.

    The International Federation of Human Rights, which comprises 141 organizations and has criticized Estonia for discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority, earlier said police had used excessive force and handled protesters in a brutal and humiliating way.

    Estonia's Prime Minister Andrus Ansip denied the accusations Thursday.

    "There has been no discrimination or human rights violations in Estonia," Ansip said. "Those who believe their rights were abused can go to a court of law. Our judicial system works efficiently, and violations, if any, will be addressed."

    The European Union and other bodies have sided with Estonia in the latest standoff between the ex-Soviet neighbors, saying Tallinn was within its rights to remove the monument, as well as demanding Moscow ensure the protection of Estonia's embassy that was besieged by youth activists.

    Estonia's defense minister reiterated Thursday the remains of 12 Red Army soldiers exhumed from the memorial would be buried in a military cemetery in late June.

    "The exact date will be determined shortly, but the reburial will most likely take place in the second half of June," Jaak Aaviksoo said, adding relatives could count on the government's help in transporting the remains to their homeland.

    Authorities in the east Ukrainian town of Poltava have said they want the remains of two Ukrainians exhumed from the memorial to be reburied on Ukrainian soil and are looking for their relatives for their consent. The relatives of several Russian soldiers had earlier expressed similar wishes.

    The Estonian government said it had removed the memorial in a bid to ensure public order. The statue and tombs were a reminder of what Estonians call a Soviet occupation and symbols of victory over the Nazis for Russia.

    The move angered Moscow. Russia has since closed a road bridge between the Russian town of Ivangorod and Estonia's Narva for trucks, saying the bridge was unsafe. The state-controlled railroad monopoly has cut shipments of oil products via Estonia citing the shortage of railroad cars, and cancelled a train service from St. Petersburg to Tallinn as unprofitable, although retaining the Moscow-Tallinn link.

    Aaviksoo said Thursday a treaty protecting war-time tombs had to be signed with Russia. He added the remains of Russian soldiers killed in Estonia in World War II had been reburied in Russia in recent years without any political disputes.

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