Estonia could officially recognize on February 24 WWII veterans who fought against the Soviet Union as “freedom fighters,” Estonia’s Postimees daily said on Thursday.
The list includes veterans from the 20th Estonian SS Division and other Nazi collaborators.
“We are talking about all those who fought for the restoration of democratic Estonia,” the country’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told Postimees. “This also includes those who resisted [the occupation] by peaceful means, political prisoners, all.”
The move has been agreed by the ruling coalition parties, which have a majority in the Estonian parliament. Previous attempts to push through a similar bill failed in 2006 and in 2010.
According to Estonian government sources, the text of the draft resolution is still in the works, and the term “freedom fighters” may be replaced by “resistance fighters” or “activists for the independence of Estonia” in the final document.
Russia has sharply criticized the Baltic State for the planned recognition of Nazi collaborators.
"To cover crimes, committed by Estonian Nazi collaborators, to call their activities 'a struggle for national liberation,' to justify and glorify them through law is blasphemous and unacceptable," the Russian Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement.
Estonia denied the accusations, saying the country “has been terrorized by the regimes of Nazi Germany and communist Soviet Union.”
“The fight against Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes was a part of the Estonian fight for freedom and the decision of the government to honor the struggle for the restoration of Estonian independence is a natural and unequivocal choice,” Estonian Defense Ministry said in January.
Before entering the war in 1941, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic States, and many Estonians saw siding with the Nazis as a way to regain the independence the country enjoyed from 1920 and until 1940.
Parades in honor of Waffen-SS veterans and their supporters are held annually in Estonia.