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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

War Dead Exhumed Over Prostitutes

MTWorkers on Thursday raking over the ground where the tombstones of the six Soviet pilots once stood in Khimki.
KHIMKI, Moscow Region -- The remains of World War II pilots have been exhumed from a monument along a highway heading toward Sheremetyevo Airport to widen the road and prevent prostitutes from desecrating the site, authorities said Thursday.

Several lawmakers accused authorities of desecrating the memory of the six Red Army pilots, who were shot down during the war, and drew a parallel between the exhumations and Estonia's recent decision to remove a Soviet war monument.

The remains were dug up near Leningradskoye Shosse in Khimki on Tuesday and will be reburied at a local cemetery on May 9, the Victory Day holiday, said Yevgeny Zaporozhets, deputy head of the Khimki administration.

He linked the decision to the upcoming reconstruction of Leningradskoye Shosse and said war veterans had asked for the reburial due to the prostitutes who gathered in the area at night.

"Veterans turned to us with a request to appease the souls of the dead," Zaporozhets said, standing near a gray memorial that before Tuesday had included six tombstones. A handful of workers raked over the soil where the tombs had once stood.

The head of the Khimki veterans council, Nadezhda Frolova, said veterans had appealed for the reburial about a year ago.

A local resident and worker at a nearby clinic, Irina Rodionova, 42, agreed that the monument needed to be moved. "Prostitutes have been gathering behind the monument to change their clothes or relieve themselves," Rodionova said. "Many times they left their underwear and condoms there."

But Communist legislators in Khimki and Moscow criticized the decision.

"It's inexcusable to vandalize the tombs this way. It's desecration," Moscow City Duma Deputy Vladimir Ulas said. "If we don't respect our history, no one will respect us."

Ulas added that the Foreign Ministry has loudly complained about the Soviet monument in Estonia but kept silent about similar cases at home.

Estonia wants to remove the statue of a Red Army soldier from the capital, Tallinn, because many Estonians see it as a reminder of what they view as four decades of Soviet occupation and Red Army ruthlessness.

Russia says the removal would desecrate the memory of soldiers who died driving the German army out of Estonia at the end of World War II.

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said the Khimki decision showed there were people in both Russia and Estonia who "disrespect those who gave their lives for the motherland," RIA-Novosti reported. Mironov is the leader of A Just Russia, a pro-Kremlin party that has styled itself as an opposition group to United Russia, the other pro-Kremlin party.

The remains will be reburied in Novoluzhinskoye Cemetery on the other side of Leningradskoye Shosse, Khimki historian Alexander Mustafin said. An area of the cemetery has been dedicated to the World War II dead, and a special memorial to the pilots is being built there, he said.