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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

8 Soviet Soldiers Reburied in Estonia

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonia on Tuesday reburied the remains of eight Soviet soldiers exhumed from a war grave -- a move that sparked riots in April and infuriated Russia.

The eight white caskets were lowered into the ground at the defense forces cemetery in a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo, foreign diplomats and World War II veterans.

Russian Ambassador Nikolai Uspensky declined an invitation to take part in the ceremony but attended a separate ceremony at the cemetery later Tuesday along with about 300 people, including Russian war veterans.

"We have fulfilled our duty and given these soldiers their final resting place," Aaviksoo said after the hourlong ceremony. He said he hoped the reburial would prevent Russia from using the war grave issue in the future "for provocations against the Republic of Estonia."

Tense relations between Russia and Estonia plummeted to a new low after the Estonian government removed the war grave and an adjacent Soviet monument from downtown Tallinn in April.

Moscow condemned the move, and members of the country's Russian-speaking minority staged protests that degenerated into street riots, leaving one dead and over a hundred injured.

The remains of 12 Red Army soldiers were exhumed from the war grave after authorities removed the statue, which already stands at the defense forces cemetery, about three kilometers from the previous location.

The remains of four soldiers were handed over upon request to relatives in Russia and Ukraine, Estonia's Defense Ministry said.

The remaining eight were buried near the Bronze Soldier in Tuesday's ceremony. A plaque with the names of the soldiers was placed in front of the graves.

Two military chaplains conducted a short Lutheran and Orthodox service. A band played funeral music as the caskets were lowered into the ground.