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    Russia says worried over vandalism of Soviet statue in Estonia

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    Russia's Foreign Ministry Tuesday voiced indignation over the defacing of a Soviet statue in downtown Tallinn commemorating the Red Army's role in ejecting Nazi troops from the city in WWII.

    MOSCOW, May 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry Tuesday voiced indignation over the defacing of a Soviet statue in downtown Tallinn commemorating the Red Army's role in ejecting Nazi troops from the city in WWII.

    The "Soldier-Liberator" statue in the center of the Estonian capital was painted in white and blue, two of the colors of the Estonian tricolor flag, in the early hours of May 21.

    Police said they had detained two suspects, both of whom were heavily intoxicated. If found guilty on voluntary-waste charges, they could face fines or up to five years in prison.

    The ministry also said in a statement it was anxious about plans by the Estonian authorities to remove the "Soldier-Liberator". Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said on national radio Monday he backed plans to move the statue out of Tallinn city center, as it "was a symbol of occupation and should be moved elsewhere."

    Relations between the two countries have been poor in the last few years, as Estonia seeks official recognition of what it calls Soviet occupation from Russia - the Soviet Union's successor state under international law - while Russia accuses the Baltic state of discriminating against ethnic Russians living there.

    Attention has once again recently focused on Soviet-era monuments in the country. The Isamaaliit party has filed a draft resolution with Tallinn city hall to destroy the "Soldier-Liberator" monument, and Estonian National Movement has demanded it be dismantled by the next anniversary of the Estonian Republic, celebrated February 24.

    Estonia's decision to restore a monument to the Estonian SS legion - many Estonians fought on the side of Nazi Germany in WWII - in mid-October despite international pressure drew sharp criticism from Russia. The Foreign Ministry said the monument made a mockery of the memory of those who died under Nazi and fascist regimes, and was a direct challenge to the Nuremberg Trials.

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