Estonia criticizes Russia but ready for dialogue
( Reuters ) - Russia is acting as if the Soviet Union still existed, Estonia's foreign minister said on Friday, although the Baltic state was still ready for cooperation despite a furious row over a Red Army war memorial.
Estonia's removal of a bronze statue of a World War Two Red Army soldier from a spot in its capital city to a military cemetery sparked riots from local Russian-speaking youths, a blockade of its embassy in Moscow and official fury from Russia.
"After some real expressions of partnership and cooperation Russia is now acting again as if the recently deceased Boris Yeltsin had not dissolved the Soviet Union in 1991," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet wrote in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.
Russia, which views the statue as a symbol of its sacrifices in World War Two against Nazi Germany, wanted it left untouched. In contrast many Estonians see the monument as a reminder of nearly 50 years of Soviet rule.
Paet said Russia did not accept independence by its "former colonies" and saw democracy in neighbouring states as a threat.
He said Russia had acted unacceptably over Estonia's Moscow embassy, "but we are still ready for a dialogue and to find a solution to the problem".
Estonia's ambassador to Russia flew out of Moscow on Thursday for two weeks leave, calming a diplomatic crisis sparked by the removal of the Communist-era war memorial.
The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi also called off its week-long, and at times violent, protests at Estonia's embassy in Moscow, which the European Union and NATO had criticised.
Estonia moved the statue last week after mainly Russian-speaking youths went on the rampage in central Tallinn in protest against a plan to relocate it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Paet on Wednesday to warn him of the "serious negative consequences" of the memorial's relocation.
Estonia got expressions of support from the European Union, NATO and the United States during the dispute, particularly over the protests at its Moscow embassy.