Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Putin Still Poking and Prodding with Estonia Issue

Putin swipes at Estonia, US at war victory celebration

Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin took veiled swipes at Estonia and the United States on Wednesday during celebrations of the Soviet role in the victory over Nazi Germany.

Speaking at a massive military parade on Red Square, Putin invoked a bitter feud with neighboring Estonia over a Soviet memorial to its World War II dead, as well as renewing past attacks on US unilateralism.

"Those who are trying today to diminish this invaluable experience, to desecrate memorials to war heroes, are insulting their own people, sowing discord and new distrust between states and people," Putin said.

Russia has raged at neighboring Estonia since a memorial to Red Army soldiers was relocated out of Tallinn's central square in late April.

He also warned of "new threats" based on "the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionalism and diktat in the world as in the Third Reich."

"I am convinced that only common responsibility and equitable partnership... can rebuff any attempts to unleash the latest armed conflict and shatter world security."

Putin's rhetoric, while veiled, closely echoed his previous contentions that unilateral US military action had made the world less safe, as well as warnings against any steps toward armed conflict with Iran.

The speech struck a confrontational note ahead of talks in Moscow next week between US Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

There are many points of conflict between the two, including sharp Russian opposition to a planned US missile shield in central Europe, disagreements over the status of Kosovo, and US support of Estonia in its simmering feud with Moscow.

Russia responded furiously when authorities moved the Soviet war memorial out of central Tallinn, with the foreign ministry accusing Estonia of "indulging neofascists and inciting extremism."

"The reasons for any war must be sought in the mistakes and miscalculations of peacetime, and their roots are in the ideology of confrontation and extremism," Putin said Wednesday.

Russians consider the monument a tribute to the Soviet victory in World War II, while many Estonians consider it a symbol of the nearly half-century of Soviet occupation that followed.

A total of 7,000 soldiers marched on Red Square following Putin's speech -- 1,000 more than in 2006 -- and nine jet fighters roared overhead.

A dozen airplanes had chased rain clouds from the skies since early morning, RIA Novosti reported.

At parks throughout the city, aging veterans bedecked with medals accepted flowers and congratulations from younger Russians.

Wednesday marked the 62nd anniversary of the defeat of Germany in 1945, which Russia celebrates a day later than other European countries.

Original article posted here.

And taking some economic measures

Russia restricts traffic across bridge linking Russia with Estonia

ST.PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - Russian authorities on Wednesday announced tight restrictions on traffic across a bridge on the main road linking Russia with Estonia, the ex-Soviet Baltic nation that angered Moscow by removing a Soviet-era war memorial.

The bridge at the river Narova has been closed for trucks with capacity over 3.5 tons "due to its emergency condition," said Valentin Sidorin, spokesman for the regional administration.

The decision to close the bridge connecting the Estonian town of Narva with Ivan-Gorod in Russia has been made by the federal authorities, Sidorin said.

The bridge sits on the main highway which carries the bulk of cargo between the two countries, and trucks will now have to make a long detour.

Sidorin would not say how long the traffic restrictions would last, but said the bridge needed serious repairs.

The move follows Russian state railways' decision to cancel the passenger train service between St.Petersburg and Estonia which was announced Tuesday. The company said it made the decision because the service had failed to attract enough passengers.

However, Russia and Estonia are locked in a tense dispute over last month's removal of a statue commemorating the Red Army soldiers in downtown Tallinn. The statue has been placed in a military cemetery and the remains of soldiers that were buried near it also are to be reinterred at the cemetery.

The statue's removal sparked days of clashes between police and ethnic Russian protesters in Tallinn, in which one person was killed and hundreds were arrested. The Red Army drove Nazi forces out of Estonia, and Russia says removal of the statue is disrespectful to those who fought against fascism; Estonians widely regard the Red Army as an occupation force that helped keep Estonia under Soviet control until the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

Russian officials have threatened unspecified economic consequences against Estonia in the dispute.

Original article posted here

1 comment:

Ducky's here said...

The history of Russia and Germany in the Baltics isn't one I understand real well. A film you might enjoy on the subject is Volker Schlondorff's "Coup de Grace" which takes place during the civil war following WW I.

It's a very good film which is probably even better if you go in with a knowledge of the history.

One thing can be said definitively. With so many millions dead in WW II, the Russians will not stand for defilement of their soldier's graves. There will be some serious sparks from this and I hope our state department has enough damn intelligence to understand the Russian temperment here. Maybe Condominium Rice, our Soviet expert can make a visit after studying WW II on the history channel for a couple hours.