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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU's Office Besieged Over Estonia

ReutersPro-Kremlin activists rallying outside the EU's representative office in Moscow on Friday to complain about Estonia.
Hundreds of students marched to the European Union's representative office on Friday in the latest protest by pro-Kremlin youth groups over the relocation of a Soviet war monument in Estonia.

The Estonian Embassy, meanwhile, reopened its consular section, which had been closed for three days after Nashi and Young Russia activists staged raucous protests that drew sharp criticism from the EU and NATO.

"The consular services department is fully operational as of Friday morning as the embassy's security situation has sufficiently improved," Estonia's Foreign Ministry said.

The protesters left the embassy on Thursday, ending a virtual siege of the building that had threatened to fray Russia's already strained relations with the EU.

But hundreds of students rallied outside the EU's representative office on Friday, waving Nashi flags and holding portraits of Mark Siryk, a high school student whom they said remained in custody after being arrested amid clashes between police and protesters in Tallinn a week earlier. The demonstrators handed an employee of the European Commission delegation headquarters letters they wrote protesting the Estonian authorities' actions.

Russia has long accused the EU of failing to respond adequately to what it says is widespread discrimination against Russian-speaking minorities in Estonia.

About 20 Nashi activists briefly blocked traffic on a major highway near the Estonian border town of Ivangorod on Friday, standing with banners calling for an economic blockade of Estonia.

"Over a space of 20 minutes, we stopped 13 trucks with Estonian license plates that were heading in both directions," a participant told Itar-Tass.

Drivers heading toward Estonia were given red carnations and asked to lay them on the grave of Dmitry Ganin, who was killed during the violence in Tallinn. More than 100 people were injured, and some 1,100 detained.

During last week's embassy protests in Moscow, Estonia's flag was pulled down and rocks were thrown at windows. A pregnant diplomat was flown back to Tallinn, and Ambassador Marina Kaljurand suddenly left on vacation Thursday.

A Moscow court on Friday fined two protesters 500 rubles each for blocking and throwing rocks at a car leaving the embassy compound, Interfax reported. Similar charges were dropped against five other activists.

Yury Belinsky / Itar-Tass
Nashi activists halting a truck on a highway near the Estonian border Friday.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said his country was monitoring the situation and again urged Russia to comply "completely" with the Vienna Convention concerning diplomatic premises and diplomats.

The dispute centered on Estonia's controversial relocation on April 27 of the Bronze Soldier, a statue commemorating Red Army soldiers killed in World War II. Estonia's government moved the statue three kilometers to a military cemetery.

Also Friday, the White House announced that Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves would visit Washington on June 25 and talk with President George W. Bush about regional and international issues.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, took a jab at Russia during a ceremony honoring a former foreign service member who probably was shot down in 1940 by Soviet aircraft as he flew on the last flight from Tallinn after the Soviet invasion.

Henry Antheil, 27, worked in the code room of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was transferred to the embassy in Helsinki, and flew June 14 to Tallinn.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Friday that Antheil had been dispatched to help close down the embassy as the Soviet troops gained the upper hand in Tallinn.

"We are right to remember him and especially right to remember him during a week when we've seen that Estonia has been harassed once again," Burns said.