Source AP ©

Estonian foreign minister blames Russia for frosty relations

The chilly relations between Russia and Estonia showed no signs of thawing Wednesday after the first high-level meeting between the two countries following a bitter dispute over a Soviet monument in the Estonian capital.

After a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said it was mainly up to Moscow to ease tensions.

"I think that 90 percent of it depends on Russia. We are very open to find a solution," Paet told The Associated Press at a regional meeting of foreign ministers in southern Sweden.

Paet, who met Lavrov on the sidelines of the Baltic Sea meeting in Malmo late Tuesday, said he had "no illusions" about Russia making efforts to improve relations with its Baltic neighbor, which broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991.

"I don't think the word optimistic is the right word here," Paet said. "During the last 15 years there have been no Russian visits (to Estonia) at high level, which is not a normal situation."

At a news conference, Lavrov said Russia was seeking to have good relations with all its neighbors, but added that "we do have problems in Estonia."

Russian officials were infuriated at Estonia's decision to remove a statue of a Red Army soldier from downtown Tallinn on April 27, a move that triggered deadly riots by Estonia's ethnic Russians, who said the move was an affront to the memory of the fallen soldiers.

"Those are emotional issues for certain people," Lavrov said. "It should be handled in accordance with international norms and with respect."

Even as the riots subsided, tensions heightened between Moscow and Tallinn as Estonian government Web sites were shut down by hacker attacks that Estonia linked to the Kremlin, and Russian protesters virtually laid siege to the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.

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