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#47 - JRL 2007-112 - JRL Home
Removal Of War Monument Was Estonia's Way To Show Independence - Premier

TALLINN. May 16 (Interfax) - By relocating a monument to Soviet soldiers from the center of Tallinn to a military cemetery, the Estonian government meant to seek to prevent the country from "sliding" back into Russia's control, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has said.

"Our desire was to prevent Estonia from gradually, step by step, sliding back into Russia's control, as was envisioned by the Sovietization plan, and the Bronze Soldier (the monument) problem was chosen as one of the ways to do this," Ansip said in an article published in the newspaper Postimees on Wednesday.

"Even if many local ethnic Russians really view the Bronze Soldier as a symbol of respect for and memory of the soldiers who died in the right battle, no one can deny that the monument on Tonismagi Square had been turned into a place that was being used to show contempt and opposition to the Estonian state," the prime minister said.

It was unlikely that May 9, 2007, would have passed without incidents, Ansip said. "We had no illusions that the celebrations on Tonismagi on May 9 would proceed in joy, under the accompaniment of concertinas. Both Estonian and Russian radicals were preparing for large-scale provocations, and Moscow was also doing so," he said.

"The Kremlin launched a massive anti-Estonian campaign not on April 26 but more than half a year ago. They expressed their position through threats," Ansip said.

"Before April 26, Russia did not take our state seriously. It thought we would in any case give in to its demands and that it has the right to seize or 'liberate' us," he said. Now, "following the European Union's, NATO's, and the Estonian republic's determined response, the situation has changed radically," Ansip said.

"We do not want to quarrel with Russia. We want to maintain good and neighborly relations," he said.

"As a precondition for neighborly relations, Moscow will have to accept the independence of Estonia and other neighboring states sooner or later," he said.

Riots broke out in Tallinn on April 26-28 in response to the Estonian government's decision to rebury the remains of Soviet soldiers from a military common grave and relocate the Soldier-Liberator Monument from downtown Tallinn to a military cemetery. Estonians of Russian ethnicity viewed the actions as an insult to the memory of the fallen soldiers. The riots occurred in Tallinn and several cities in the Estonian northeast, where there is a large ethnic Russian diaspora.