The standoff between Russia and Estonia over the relocation of the Soviet Soldier memorial continues. As it was expected, the United States did not support Russia in the dispute, but sided with Estonia. UD officials urge the two sides to cooperate and to reduce tension in their relations.
Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Estonian authorities had full rights to move the monument from central Tallinn, the capital, to a military cemetery.
He said the United States welcomes the restoration of calm in Tallinn and said, "We have urged the Estonian and Russian governments to maintain dialogue and respect for the strong feelings on both sides."
Estonia came under Soviet domination in 1940 on the pretext that the Baltic state had requested protection from the Nazis. After World War II, Soviet authorities placed the monument as a memorial to tens of thousands of Russian soldiers killed liberating Estonia from Nazism.
Estonians interpreted the monument as a symbol of five decades under Soviet domination before the Soviet Union collapsed apart in 1991.
Tom Casey expressed concern "about continuing reports of violence and harassment, including harassment of Estonian diplomatic personnel and premises, in Moscow."
"We urge authorities in Moscow to do everything possible to reduce tensions, carry out responsibilities under the Vienna Convention concerning diplomatic premises and diplomats, and avoid harsh words and escalation," he said.
The NATO alliance on Thursday called on Russia to prevent threats against Estonian embassy staff in Moscow and to resolve its dispute with the Baltic state over the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the center of Tallinn, The Associated Press reports.
"NATO is deeply concerned by threats to the physical safety of Estonian diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, in Moscow," the alliance said in a statement. "These actions are unacceptable, and must be stopped immediately."
The alliance called on Moscow to defuse tension over the Soviet war memorial and graves in Estonia "diplomatically."
On Wednesday pro-Kremlin youth activists in Moscow staged an aggressive protest against Estonia's ambassador over the removal of the World War II memorial from central Tallinn, the Estonian capital.
The dispute comes at a time of already testy relations between Russia and its West European neighbors. Russians regard the Tallinn memorial as a tribute to Soviet sacrifices in fighting Nazi Germany.
Serious rioting, mostly by Estonia's ethnic Russian minority, broke out last week over removal of the statue to a military cemetery.
Prepared by Dmitry Sudakov