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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Talks Restart on Pullout Of Troops From Estonia

TALLINN, Estonia -- Talks between Estonia and Russia on the pullout of former Soviet troops from the Baltic country resumed Tuesday in Moscow, but officials in Estonia voiced pessimism about chances for agreement.


"I wouldn't say the chances are too good. The signs just haven't been that positive," said Toivo Klaar, head of the political department at the Estonian Foreign Ministry in Tallinn, the capital.


Estonia, which still has 2,300 Russian soldiers on its territory, is the only former Soviet republic in the Baltics which has not agreed on withdrawal terms with Russia.


Officials say the main stumbling block in the talks, which have dragged on for three years, is the issue of more than 10,000 former Russian officers who retired in Estonia and want to stay.


Russia wants Estonia to grant all retirees permanent residency rights. The Estonians say they will only allow officers who retired before Aug. 20, 1991, to stay in the country and only if they meet strict eligibility requirements.


Estonia also has rejected demands that former Soviet officers be offered economic concessions, such as the right to sell their apartments.


Latvia and Russia signed a withdrawal agreement March 15, although the treaty must still be ratified by both countries. Under the treaty, the 12,000 soldiers still in Latvia would be pulled out by Aug. 31.


Lithuania was the first among the three Baltic states to sign an agreement with Russia. All former Soviet troops on its territory left last year.


A total of 135,000 troops have left the Baltic states since they won independence from Moscow in 1991. The Soviet Union annexed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia during World War II.


The current round of Estonian-Russian talks is scheduled to end Wednesday.