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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rhetoric Only Outdone by The Hypocrisy

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As indignation and anger among ethnic Russians in Estonia has peaked over the last couple weeks, Moscow's rhetoric against Tallinn has been abhorrent. This was made clear Tuesday when a group of Russian lawmakers laid flowers at the foot of the Soviet monument that caused all the fuss.

The memorial to slain World War II soldiers has been the scene of clashes between ethnic Russians and Estonians for years, especially on the Victory Day holiday on May 9, when Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany. From the moment Estonian officials announced a plan to move the monument out of central Tallinn, Russian media, particularly the three state-run national television channels, have referred almost exclusively in their news reports to the "dismantling" of the monument. As viewers turned on their televisions Tuesday to the sight of the lawmakers visiting the monument at its new location, in a Tallinn military cemetery, many must have understood that they had only been given half the truth. They had been told about the removal but not the relocation, it would seem, to stoke public indignation against Estonia's "extreme nationalist" and "blasphemous" attitude. That indignation led to behavior that can only be described as "inhuman" -- a favorite Kremlin word -- by the Russians who participated in the Friday and Saturday riots that killed one man and injured dozens of others.

Put plainly, Moscow's conduct in the whole affair has been glaringly hypocritical. When the Kremlin or City Hall explains why opposition marches in Moscow have been banned, they usually cite concerns over unrest and disorder. When the Estonian government tries to avoid the unrest and disorder that usually spoils May 9, Russian officials describe this as "blasphemy."

At home, members of opposition groups who throw mayonnaise or pies at political figures are branded "extremist." But in Tallinn, members of pro-Kremlin groups who take part in demonstrations where Molotov cocktails are hurled at police officers and shops are looted are being branded "patriotic."

Moscow is regularly accused of refusing to respect the independence of countries that were once under its control. In some cases these accusations, including from Estonia, come across as overblown and a bit paranoid.

But if we apply Moscow's own standards -- and the idea of "sovereign democracy" so beloved by Kremlin political theorists -- to the case of the monument in Tallinn, there is no excuse for the course Russia has taken. Surely the Estonians have the right to decide where to put a monument in their own capital.

When anyone dares to question Russia's official interpretation of past events, they are immediately accused of rewriting history. By playing fast and loose with the facts surrounding the recent clashes in Tallinn, Moscow is attempting to rewrite the present.