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RIA Novosti

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Estonian PM protests statues of Russia's Peter the Great

18:11 31/08/2006
TALLIN, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - The prime minister of Estonia reiterated his opposition Thursday to the building of statues of Russian tsar Peter the Great in the Baltic country.

Relations between Russia and Estonia have been tense since the Soviet Union collapsed, with Estonia accusing Russia of a 50-year occupation and Russia criticizing its neighbor for discrimination against ethnic Russian residents.

Commenting on the plans of Narva's municipal authorities to launch talks with the Moscow-based Dolgoruky Fund for the Support of Compatriots on financing a statue of Peter the Great in the largely Russian-speaking border city, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said he saw no reason to be grateful for the tsar's actions in Estonia.

Peter I, who transformed Muscovite Russia into a leading European power almost three hundred years ago, gained control over Estonia and the Baltic region in 1721 after signing a treaty with the King of Sweden, ending the Great Northern War.

The Estonian prime minister said, "As a resident of Tartu, I do not approve of the fact that, on Peter's orders, Tartu was razed to the ground and its residents were deported to Russia. The same was done in Narva, although admittedly the city was not destroyed. But when in 1704 Narva was conquered, all old and sick people were dragged out of their beds and thrown in the river, and in 1708 all residents of Narva were deported to Vologda and Kazan. We have no reason to be grateful to Peter I for what he did in Estonia."

Ansip said Estonia should honor its own national traditions, and regretted that the government does not have the authority to ban the building of such statues, since such decisions are made by local authorities.

However, a bill being drawn up by the Justice Ministry will change this situation, he said.

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