MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned Monday a meeting of veterans of Estonia's Waffen SS division in the Baltic state over the weekend, calling it an outrageous event and regretting that it received official backing.
Estonian SS veterans and their supporters gathered Saturday in the northeast of the country to commemorate one of the bloodiest battles in Estonia during World War II. Reunions to glorify so-called fighters against the Soviet occupation have become a tradition in the Baltic state in recent years, angering Russia.
"Moscow is deeply outraged by reports of a regular session of Estonian SS Division 20... which Estonian authorities have chosen to call 'fighters for Estonia's freedom,' ignoring the internationally-recognized decisions of the Nuremburg Tribunal," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The open glorification of former Nazi fighters' actions in World War II by the Estonian government, voiced in a congratulatory speech to members of the Nazi coven by the defense minister, is especially outrageous," the ministry said.
As many as 800 people have gathered at the meeting this year, including Austrian and Norwegian nationals. "The growing extent and internationalization of such neo-Nazi manifestations in the EU member state is particularly obvious," the ministry said.
The ministry also said the military competition Erna Raid, scheduled for August 6 through 11 and held annually since 1993, complied with Estonia's line towards glorifying Nazism, as it commemorated the Abwehr-trained Erna reconnaissance group, which operated in the rear of the Soviet Army in 1941.
Estonia's Defense Ministry finances the competition, attended by representatives of a number of Western countries.
"It is astonishing that some of the former members of the anti-Hitler coalition nowadays send their representatives to the Erna Raid without realizing that in this way they morally support those who have a 'specific' view on the historical role of SS and Abwehr divisions. Doing so, they insult the memory of soldiers, including their soldiers, who died fighting Hitler's regime," the ministry said.
Shortly before VE-Day celebrations this year, the Estonian government removed a Soviet war memorial from the center of the country's capital Tallinn.
The removal of the Bronze Soldier monument sparked violent protests from the ex-Soviet republic's ethnic Russian minority. One person was killed and several dozen injured in clashes with police April 27.
Moscow issued strong protests, with some parliamentarians calling for cutting diplomatic ties with Tallinn.
The Russian leadership has repeatedly called the EU's attention to Estonia's attempts to glorify Nazi Germany, and to its discriminatory policies relating to ethnic Russians who moved to the republic following its annexation by the Soviet Union following the war.