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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Lambasts Estonia's Removal of War Memorial

Authorities on Tuesday attacked a decision by Estonia to remove a monument to Soviet soldiers who fought the German army in the Baltic state during World War II.

The heroic bronze statue of a Red Army soldier has stood since 1947 in the center of the capital, Tallinn.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the plan to move was disrespectful to the men and women of the Soviet army who had died to liberate Estonia from Nazi rule.

"We think this decision is blasphemous," he told a news briefing.

World War II memorials to the Soviet dead are held dear by Russians more than 60 years after the end of the war, which cost the Soviet Union more than 10 million military lives.

In total, an estimated 27 million people from the Soviet Union are thought to have died in the war.

But many Estonians have yet to forgive Moscow for the Red Army's ruthlessness in crushing independence- minded Estonians who sided with the Germans, and for four decades of harsh Soviet communist rule.

Estonia only gained its independence with the collapse of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, and tensions have simmered on as Estonia has aligned itself more and more with the West.

Lavrov said it was unacceptable "to forget history and to equate those who liberated Europe and those who wanted to enslave it under the banner of fascist ideology."

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has been the main driver behind the decision to remove the statue.

He has said the monument attracts demonstrations, and proposes relocating it to a graveyard.