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    War memorial removal to affect Russia-Estonia ties - minister

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    The possible removal of a Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn will affect bilateral relations between Estonia and Russia, a Russian first deputy prime minister said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - The possible removal of a Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn will affect bilateral relations between Estonia and Russia, a Russian first deputy prime minister said Tuesday.

    Estonia's commission on wartime burials recommended March 13 removing the World War II Bronze Soldier statue, which is part of a Soviet-era memorial, from central Tallinn to a "quieter" military cemetery, in accordance with a new law passed in January

    Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said arrangements for the removal of the monument were underway.

    Sergei Ivanov said that the action will affect relations between the countries. "I am not talking about sanctions," Sergei Ivanov said. "But if Russians are not happy [with Estonian policies] they can simply refuse to buy their goods."

    Ivanov said Russia should not be indifferent to the act of vandalism and that Russia's foreign minister should play a key role in settling the situation.

    The first deputy prime minister also said the construction of the Ust-Lug port in the Leningrad Region should be completed as soon as possible so that Russia can start handling increased cargo and passenger flows, where Estonia currently has the advantage.

    The six-foot Bronze Soldier and other Soviet memorials have recently become rallying points for ethnic Russians, and clashes with Estonian nationalists near the bronze monument prompted the authorities to press for monuments "dividing society" to be removed.

    Russia has accused Estonia of encouraging Nazism and discrimination against ethnic Russians, and even prompted debate on possible energy sanctions against Estonia. Moscow has also called for international organizations to step in.

    Some 50,000 Soviet troops perished in Estonia in 1944 fighting against Nazi Germany. The Soviets regained control of the republic, which many Estonians call occupation. The bodies of the soldiers killed in action are buried at 450 cemeteries and memorials across the Baltic country.

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