MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow might impose sanctions against Estonia amid an escalating row over the possible demolition of Soviet war memorials in the ex-Soviet Baltic state, the speaker of the upper house of Russia's parliament said Tuesday.
Estonia's parliament adopted January 10 a law paving the way for the dismantling of Soviet-era war memorials and the reburial of the remains of Soviet soldiers who died fighting German invaders during the Second World War, but who are seen by many Estonians as former occupiers.
Russia has officially warned Estonia that its continuing attempts to form a legal basis for exhuming Soviet soldiers and demolishing monuments could harm bilateral relations.
"I do not rule out the possibility that Russia could take certain measures," Sergei Mironov said, adding that the Estonian move was "the first step toward legalizing fascism and neo-Nazism in the 21st century."
The lower house of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, has already condemned the Estonian law, and recommended that the Russian government introduce economic sanctions against the EU member if the situation becomes worse in the future.
The controversial bill, which Estonian lawmakers passed in its first reading in November 2006, resulted from a dispute over a Monument to a Soviet Liberator in central Tallinn, which authorities want removed.
Mironov said the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, will consider a draft resolution on Estonia and will urge parliaments of NATO countries, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to condemn the Estonian law.
The Russian leadership has repeatedly called the European Union's attention to attempts by Estonia, which declared its independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and joined NATO and the EU in 2004, to glorify Nazi Germany, including with parades by former Nazi SS fighters.
Moscow has also harshly criticized Estonia's discriminatory policies in respect to ethnic Russians who moved to the republic following its annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940, and their descendents.
Many members of Estonia's Russian community are denied citizenship and employment rights, and cannot receive an education in their native language. Amnesty International has condemned the situation in the Baltic country, and called on its leadership to respect the rights of ethnic Russians.
The Russian delegation to PACE has submitted to the organization's Secretariat a draft resolution "On attempts to revive the Nazi ideology in Estonia."
"We believe that the adoption of a law allowing the demolition of monuments dedicated to those who thought against fascism, including a Monument to a Soviet Liberator in central Tallinn, along with permission to conduct SS veteran rallies... severely undermines democratic principles promoted by the Council of Europe and clearly demands an adequate response from its Assembly," the document said.
PACE leader Rene van der Linden said Tuesday he will meet with heads of the Russian and Estonian delegations at the Europe's human rights watchdog to discuss the ongoing feud over Tallinn's monument demolition plans.