Duma Seeks Support for War Veteran

The State Duma called on international parliaments Friday to press for Estonia to stop the genocide trial of a World War II veteran.

The trial of Arnold Meri, which began this week but was then adjourned, is the latest incident troubling relations between Moscow and Tallinn.

The Duma passed a resolution condemning the trial of Meri, who is charged with taking part in the deportation of 251 people to Siberia. According to Estonian security police files, 43 of the 251 deportees died.

Although the crimes Meri is accused of committing did not begin until four years after the war's end, the resolution called the trial "a clear political order with the goal of reviewing the results of the World War II."

Reacting swiftly, Estonia's Foreign Ministry said the "rhetoric" used by the Duma "contains nothing new" and was aimed at influencing the outcome of the trial. "Estonia is ... a constitutional state, where the handling of court cases is not influenced by politics. The statement by the Russian Duma is an attempt to make the [Meri] trial a political process and influence the work of the Estonian court," the ministry said.

Meri, 88, is a cousin of former Estonian Prime Minister Lennart Meri, who was deported to Siberia with his family in June 1941 but managed to return to Estonia. Soviet forces occupied Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in June 1940 but were driven out by the Germans a year later. The Baltics were reincorporated into the Soviet Union in 1944.