The Soviet-era World War II memorial was removed from the central square in Tallinn overnight despite the Estonian premier's assurances that it would stay in place until Victory Day on May 9. Clashes between police and protesters left one dead and at least 57 injured, including 13 police officers.
"Stop mocking the dead and desecrating a monument to those killed during World War II," Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Russian Federation Council, said, adding that the upper house would prepare the statement on severing diplomatic ties with Estonia and submit it to the Russian president later Friday.
Police arrested over 300 people in the riots and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse opponents of the government's decision to exhume the remains of 13 Soviet soldiers who died liberating Estonia from the Nazis in 1944 and were buried at the site three years later.
Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo told a news conference Friday morning that the exhumation and identification of the bodies had been postponed in the wake of the riots in Tallinn.
Police reinforcements will be brought in, and security beefed up near Estonian embassies in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Members of the Russian Young Guard youth movement and the ruling United Russia party are gathering in front of the Estonian embassy in Moscow as part of sanctioned protests against the monument removal.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has said it would revise relations with the Baltic country, now an EU member, which had decided to remove the monument as "dividing society." Mikhail Kamynin, the ministry spokesman, said the events in Tallinn "need to be looked at by international organizations in all seriousness and necessary measures taken to cool the Estonian authorities' zeal."
Mikhail Margelov, head of the Russian Federation Council's international affairs committee, said Estonian nationalists were reaping the rewards of their policy and expressed concern that their actions were going unpunished.
"Brussels is silent, and Moscow restricts itself to endless warnings," he said, adding that the incident was not an Estonian internal affair. "This [removal] concerns all those who defeated the Nazis because it was a world war."
The international affairs committee of Russia's lower house, the State Duma, has called an emergency session to discuss the situation, while Duma deputies have said they might adopt a resolution later in the day.
The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, which like Russia suffered huge losses during WWII, declined to comment on the situation and said it was Estonia's internal affair. The diplomats in Kiev said they would come up with a statement later.
A senior legislator in another former Soviet republic, Kazakhstan, which also fought in the war, dismissed the developments around the monument as insulting the memory of warriors who died in the war.
"Even Germany respects the graves of Soviet soldiers, and I cannot describe the events in Estonia in any other way but barbarianism," Serik Abdrakhmanov said.
WWII veterans in Tajikistan concurred with their counterparts in Kazakhstan by saying the Estonian authorities' action was nothing less than fascism. "Estonian bureaucrats are behaving like fascists, forgetting who liberated them from slavery and the threat of extinction," said Abdurakhim Kurbanov, a presidium member of the Tajik council of war veterans.
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