Thursday May 3, 5:47 AM
EU members, US back Estonia in face of Russian 'attacks'*
EU member countries and the United States on Wednesday rallied round
Estonia as attacks from Russia deepened the worst diplomatic crisis in
the Baltic state since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip called on the European Union to come to the
aid of the small newcomer to the bloc, saying the multi-pronged attack
from its giant neighbour was "an attack on the entire EU."
The crisis began last week when Estonian authorities moved a Soviet war
memorial from the centre of Tallinn, sparking riots.
"A physical attack against the ambassador of Estonia to Moscow...
cyber-attacks from the servers of Russian state authorities... delegates
of the Russian Duma calling for a change of government in Estonia, all
indicate that our sovereign state is under heavy attack," Ansip said in
a speech in parliament.
"We have turned to the European Union and we ask them to take immediate
action. Attacking one member state means an attack against the entire
European Union," Ansip said.
On Wednesday, members of a pro-Kremlin youth movement that has been
blockading the Estonian embassy in Moscow since last week tried to
attack the Baltic state's ambassador to Russia.
Family members of staff working at the embassy were evacuated.
The German EU presidency issued a statement urging "the Russian
Federation to comply with its international obligations under the Vienna
Convention on diplomatic relations and protect the staff and premises of
the Estonian mission and ensure unimpeded access to it."
Sweden protested to Russia after its ambassador Johan Molander was
attacked as he left the Estonian embassy in Moscow, the foreign ministry
in Stockholm said.
Rioting, which the Russians have blamed on the tough response by
Estonian police to "defenders of the Bronze Soldier" memorial, left a
Russian man dead, and more than 150 people injured, including 29 police
The Estonians say the riots were a spree of violence and vandalism,
fomented by officials at the Russian embassy in Tallinn.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves slammed Russia's actions as having no
place in Europe.
"It is customary in Europe that differences... are solved by diplomats
and politicians, not on the streets or by computer attacks," Ilves said.
"Those are the ways of other countries somewhere else, not in Europe,"
The United States expressed understanding for the different emotions the
statue evoked among Russians and Estonians, but said the row over the
Bronze Soldier was an internal issue that should be left to Estonians to
"Other people shouldn't be, frankly, engaged or trying to manage that
process from outside the country," State Department deputy spokesman Tom
Estonian leaders have claimed that cyber-attacks that forced government
websites to shut down temporarily came from computers in the Russian
administration, including the office of President Vladimir Putin.
During a fact-finding mission here, members of a delegation of Russian
parliamentarians demanded that the Estonian government resign and made
claims the Estonians tortured people detained during the riots.
AFP accompanied the Russian delegation as they checked the toilets and
peered through windows at a warehouse near Tallinn's port, looking for
indications of torture.
None were visible, and one of the lawmakers told AFP as they left that
it would be "impossible" to file a formal complaint for torture against
The Russian delegation also accused the Estonian police of withholding
medical assistance from a young Russian who was knifed in the first
night of the violence, but later withdrew the accusation.
Some of the Russian lawmakers also claimed the solid bronze statue at
the heart of the row, which is seen by Russians as a memorial to Red
Army soldiers who fell in World War II, had been cut into several pieces
when it was moved from central Tallinn.
The statue was re-installed Monday in a military cemetery three days
after it was removed from its busy city-centre site. The 60-year-old
oxidised bronze statue bore no signs of fresh welds.
Excavations at the city-centre site where the monument had stood until
Friday have uncovered the remains of 12 Soviet soldiers and a few
personal possessions -- a boot, eyeglasses, a pencil and a Red Army
officer's epaulettes, Estonian officials said Wednesday.
The remains will undergo testing to try to identify the fallen soldiers
and return them to their families.
Russian experts have not sought to be involved in the identification
process, the Estonians said.