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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thousands of Flowers Laid at Estonian Statue

Thousands of Estonia's Russian-speaking residents laid flowers Wednesday at a fence around the bronze statue of the Red Army soldier whose relocation from central Tallinn to a military cemetery sparked riots and protests.

Others laid flowers at the spot where the statue previously stood, one day after Estonian government ministers for the first time paid tribute to the Red Army while commemorating the Allied victory in World War II.

The Estonian government was hoping the gesture would begin a process of reconciliation between ethnic Estonians and Russian-speakers, 10 days after Estonia was hit by riots over the decision to move the statue.

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo participated in Tuesday's ceremony at the cemetery, which was observed by a small group of onlookers.

The Swedish ambassador to Estonia, Dag Hartelius, laid a wreath on behalf of the Western diplomatic corps.

Russian Ambassador Nikolai Uspensky refused to take part in Tuesday's ceremony, opting instead to join those who laid flowers at the monument Wednesday.

Russia was furious at Estonia's decision to move the statue and a nearby war grave from downtown Tallinn. On Monday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out at the European Union and NATO for doing nothing to stop the monument's relocation.

Estonia's ethnic Russians took their frustration to the streets, resulting in the worst rioting Estonia has seen since it broke from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Earlier Tuesday, Estonian ministers and the chief rabbi of Estonia's Jewish community, Shmuel Kot, laid flowers at the former Klooga concentration camp 40 kilometers west of Tallinn.

Elsewhere in Estonia, an unidentified vandal painted a swastika on a monument to Red Army soldiers in the Estonian town of Tyuri, Ekho Moskvy radio reported Wednesday.

AP, MT