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Estonia "ignores" Russian accusations as graves row grows

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday January 18, 2007

Tallinn- Estonia is deliberately ignoring "groundless accusations" from Russia in an increasingly heated row over the fate of a WWII memorial, the Estonian prime minister said on Thursday. "Until 1997-1998 Estonia reacted to accusations, but it didn't do us any good ... After that we started to deliberately ignore accusations," Andrus Ansip told reporters.

His comments follow a blast of criticism from Russia over recent legislation passed in Estonia. Last week Estonian members of parliament approved a law allowing for the removal of war graves if they are under threat from "inappropriate" behaviour.

The law applies to all graves belonging to all soldiers fallen in all wars in Estonia, but has been interpreted in Russia as being aimed at "destroying" the country's memorials to Red Army soldiers - especially one in central Tallinn known as the Bronze Soldier.

The law proves "the Estonian government's intention to continue its course of representing Nazism in a heroic light and justifying its ideology," the Russian Duma said in a statement on Wednesday.

Russia has often accused both Estonia and Latvia of "heroizing" Nazism. The two small states were occupied by the USSR in 1940, invaded by the Nazis in 1941 and annexed by the Soviets in 1945.

They have consistently maintained that the Soviet occupation was illegal, a view which Western historians support, but Moscow denies, calling any equation of Nazi and Soviet actions "blasphemy."

And the fact that tens of thousands of Baltic youths were conscripted into the Waffen-SS, and are now viewed in the Baltics as national freedom fighters, is hailed in Russia as proof that the Baltics are actively supporting a renaissance of Nazism.

There is a "trend for the weakening of global public awareness of the danger of a revival of Nazi ideology," the Duma statement ran.

"I've condemned fascism on repeated occasions myself, there's no glorification of fascism in Estonia," Ansip replied, according to Baltic News Service BNS.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency