PBLA slams Saeima over inaction on Estonia’s troubles

Latvians on Line
Andris Straumanis
May 9, 2007

In a sharply worded open letter to Latvia’s parliament, the World Federation of Free Latvians has criticized legislators for not acting quickly to support Estonia in the face of verbal attacks from Russia over the controversial removal of a downtown Tallinn monument to World War II-era Soviet soldiers.

The federation is “deeply disappointed” in the Saeima’s “reluctance, delay and fear” in supporting Estonia, the letter states. The May 8 letter is signed by the board of the federation (known in Latvian as the Pasaules br?vo latviešu apvien?ba, or PBLA).

To save face, the Saeima should adopt a resolution of support for Estonia, the PBLA said.

The PBLA’s concern stems from Russia’s reaction to Estonia’s removal of the Bronze Soldier from Tallinn’s Freedom Square, as well as plans to relocate the remains of 14 Red Army soldiers from an area near the monument. Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority viewed the statue’s removal as an affront, leading to two days of unrest April 26-27 during which hundreds were arrested, dozens were injured and one man—a Russian citizen and permanent resident of Estonia—died. The Latvian embassy in Tallinn also was attacked.

Estonia has blamed Russia for fomenting the unrest, for cyberattacks on Estonian government Web sites that followed the unrest, for a siege by a youth organization of the Estonian embassy in Moscow and for what it says are distorted Russian media reports on the situation in Tallinn.

Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Paet, in a May 1 statement called on the European Union to defend Estonia’s interests.

“The issue of the Bronze Soldier and vandalism in Tallinn are Estonia’s internal matters but the coordinated activities undertaken against Estonia by Russia are a matter of the entire European Union,” Paet said in the statement.

Russia has had strong words of its own.

“We are all outraged by this sacrilege, blasphemy and the methods used to disperse the demonstrators who tried to defend the sacred object, put up in memory of Europe’s liberation,” Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said during an April 27 press conference in Norway, according to ministry’s Information and Press Department.

The PBLA criticized ruling Latvian coalition parties for failing to bring a resolution to the floor during the Saeima’s first meeting after the Tallinn riot. Opposition parties did propose a resolution, but it was defeated.

The PBLA wants the Saeima to adopt a resolution supporting the Estonian government and its sovereign decisions, condemning the vandalism and theft that occurred in the streets of Tallinn, condemning high Russian officials and members of parliament who have attempted to meddle in Estonia’s internal affairs, and condemning Russian authorities for their unwillingness to end the blockade of the Estonian embassy in Moscow and to guarantee the safety of embassy personnel in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Andris Straumanis is editor of Latvians Online.

The article may be found online at http://latviansonline.com/index.php/news/article/2822/