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Russia Criticizes Estonia's Decision to Remove Soviet Soldier Statue


Russians have been quick to criticize Thursday's vote in Estonia's parliament approving the removal of a controversial Soviet war statue from the center of the capital, Tallinn. Lisa McAdams report from Moscow.

Estonian lawmakers approved the statue's removal, by a vote of 46 to 44, on the bill's third and final reading. It calls for the two-meter bronze statue of a Red Army soldier to be moved from the middle of a downtown public transportation hub to a more remote location, within one month.

The measure still needs presidential approval. But that has not stopped the chorus of indignation from Estonia's minority-Russian population, which makes up one-third of the tiny Baltic nation's populace.

Andrei Zarenko, an ethnic Russian living in Tallinn, says he and other like-minded protesters will urge Estonian President Thomas Hendrik-Ilves to veto the move.

Zarenko says the plan to remove the soldier is as egregious as those who deny the Holocaust. He says it is an ill-advised attempt to re-write history.

The speaker of Russia's parliament, Boris Gryzlov, echoed that sentiment in comments broadcast on Russian television. Gryzlov warns the plan could "seriously complicate relations between Estonia and Russia."

Estonia, and its two Baltic neighbors - Latvia and Lithuania - were annexed by Moscow after Red Army forces drove out occupying German forces, at the end of World War II. The three Baltic nations regained their independence in 1991, as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Many Estonians say the monument reminds them of the long Soviet occupation of the Baltics, rather than liberation from the Nazis.

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip says the transit stop is the wrong place for a memorial. He says it is impossible to speak about respect for the dead when people stage rallies, drink alcohol and wait for the trolley bus all under the soldier's steely gaze.

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