Latvia, Lithuania pledge support to Estonia in row with Russia

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DPA-Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Latvia, Lithuania pledge support to Estonia in row with Russia
May 2, 2007, 14:07 GMT

Riga – National leaders in Latvia and Lithuania pledged their continuing support for Estonia on Wednesday in an escalating row with their common neighbour, Russia.

Lithuania ‘has supported, supports and will continue to support Estonia,’ President Valdas Adamkus told the speaker of the Estonian parliament, Ene Ergma, in Vilnius on Wednesday afternoon.

Adamkus also gave Ergma a letter of support addressed to Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, while Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas held telephone discussions with his Estonian counterpart, Urmas Paet, official statements added.

In Latvia, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis expressed his support for Estonia in an interview with the LNT TV channel.

‘An independent country has the right to make independent decisions,’ Kalvitis said, criticizing Russia for what he saw as its interference in a sovereign state’s domestic affairs.

Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks told the Leta news agency that Latvia ‘firmly condemned’ an attack on Estonia’s ambassador to Russia, Marina Kaljurand, who was targeted by Russian nationalists at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday afternoon.

The Estonian embassy in Moscow has been under siege by pro-Kremlin youth groups since last Friday, with those in the building subjected to a bombardment of slogans and music.

Russia’s failure to provide adequate protection for the building and its staff violates the Vienna Convention on the treatment of diplomatic personnel, Pabriks said.

Last Thursday the Estonian government ordered that a Red Army monument in central Tallinn be relocated to a nearby war cemetery. The move sparked protests, which rapidly spilled over into the worst rioting Estonia has seen since the Russian Revolution.

Estonians see the monument as a symbol of their country’s illegal occupation by the Soviet Union, but most ethnic Russians see it as a tribute to Russians’ sacrifice in the victory over Nazism.

The move provoked fury in Russia. Pro-Kremlin youth groups blockaded the embassy, hackers began attacking Estonian official websites and members of the Duma (Russia’s parliament) said the Estonian government should step down over the crisis.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were all occupied by Soviet troops in 1940 and annexed to the USSR at the end of World War II. The three broke free from the USSR in 1991 and joined the EU and NATO in 2004, despite strong opposition from Moscow.