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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nashi Rings Bell to Protest Estonia

MTA Nashi activist ringing a bell outside the European Commission's offices Monday. The poster is of Mark Siryk.
Nashi activists gathered Monday outside the European Commission building in central Moscow promising to ring a bell every 15 minutes until Estonian authorities release one of their own.

As his red-shirted underlings struggled to attach a bell to a steel frame outside the offices near the Tretyakovskaya metro station, Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko said Estonia's detention of high school student Mark Siryk is "a disgrace to the whole of Europe."

"The EU must know that one if its members has a schoolchild as a political prisoner," Yakemenko said. "We will sound this bell every 15 minutes until they free Mark."

Siryk was arrested in Tallinn last month and has been charged with organizing mass unrest amid protests over the relocation of a Soviet World War II memorial from the center of the Estonian capital.

Activists from the pro-Kremlin youth group handed out flyers to passers-by showing Syrik gazing into the distance from behind barbed wire. The flyer says Syrik is 17 years old. Estonian authorities say he is 18.

Hundreds of Nashi activists held raucous protests outside the Estonian Embassy earlier this month over the relocation of the monument, prompting the embassy to temporarily close its consular section.

But it was business as usual inside the European Commission offices Monday, commission spokesman Sean Carroll said.

"They have the right to express their views; that is the cornerstone of basic human rights," Carroll said of the Nashi protesters.

The European Union has stood by the Estonian government's decision to relocate the memorial.

Carroll said Marc Franco, head of the European Commission's delegation to Russia, was aware of the protest.

The commission could not comment on pending cases such as Siryk's, Carroll said.

Siryk had an appeal rejected by an Estonian regional appeals court last week and will remain under arrest until his trial, said Kriistina Herodas, a spokeswoman for the Estonian Prosecutor General's Office.

According to Estonian law, Siryk can be kept in detention for up to six months before he is tried, Herodas said by telephone from Tallinn.

"It's very unlikely to be that long," Herodas said. "There is a lot of will to finish this case as soon as possible, but we need to be thorough."

If charged and convicted, Siryk could face up to five years in prison.

Two or three Nashi activists will ring the bell every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until Siryk is released, Nashi spokeswoman Anastasia Suslova said.

"We wanted to be here 24 hours a day, but the authorities denied us permission," Suslova said.

One person died, around 100 were injured and 300 people were detained during the clashes in central Tallinn last month between ethnic Russians and Estonian police, who used tear gas to disperse the protesters.