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Police in Tallinn, Estonia, had to use tear gas to disperse protesters against Estonian authorities' decision to remove a World War II monument to Soviet soldiers
Police in Tallinn, Estonia, had to use tear gas to disperse protesters against Estonian authorities' decision to remove a World War II monument to Soviet soldiers. The incident occurred in a clash between police that surrounded a small park around the bronze statue and those who came to defend the monument and protest against the Estonian authorities' decision exhume and identify the remains of Soviet soldiers buried at the site. Estonia started work Thursday to relocate the soldiers buried by the Bronze Soldier statue in central Tallinn to a military cemetery on the outskirts of the capital in a move that could further strain relations with Moscow, which has accused the Baltic state of encouraging Nazism and discrimination against ethnic Russians. "If the Nazis could not cope with living [soldiers], the Estonian government is trying to cope with dead ones," said Boris Gryzlov, chairman of the State Duma, parliament's lower house. Police cordoned off the area around the memorial in the run up to May 9 VE Day. The six-foot statue, which could also be dismantled and relocated, has become a rallying point for ethnic Russians. Following clashes with Estonian nationalists near the statues the authorities called for the Bronze Statue and other monuments "dividing society" to be removed. Estonia's prime minister said earlier Thursday the work, being done under a Defense Ministry recommendation in mid-March, could last two weeks to four months. Andrus Ansip also said the central square was not a proper burial place. "We cannot talk of respect for wartime graves, when people stage rallies, wave flags and consume alcohol there," the premier said, adding the Soviet soldiers would be laid to rest a military cemetery on the outskirts of Tallinn. Moscow has threatened Tallinn with economic sanctions and said it could refer the case to the European Union, the Organization for Security and Organization in Europe, and NATO. Russia already initiated a resolution to condemn plans by the EU member to remove the memorial at the Council of Europe earlier April. The Russian delegation in Strasbourg also insisted the European body address the recent closure by Polish authorities of a Russian exhibition at Poland's Auschwitz death camp memorial, and Hungarian radicals' plans to remove a Soviet WWII memorial from central Budapest. The governor of the Russian enclave region in the Baltics has meanwhile suggested moving the Bronze Soldier to Kaliningrad.
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