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Estonia closes Moscow consulate, citing security

The Estonian Consulate in Moscow has closed for security reasons on the second day of protests in the two capitals against the removal of the Soviet monument in Tallinn, the embassy said Saturday.
MOSCOW, April 28 (RIA Novosti) -- The Estonian Consulate in Moscow has closed for security reasons on the second day of protests in the two capitals against the removal of the Soviet monument in Tallinn, the embassy said Saturday.

"The Estonian Consulate has decided to cease its activities until security is provided for the diplomatic mission," the press attache, Franek Persidski, said, adding that visas would not be issued or documents accepted.

Moscow police said Friday reinforcements had been brought in to the Estonian Embassy because of continuing protests over the dismantlement early Friday of the monument to the Soviet World War II soldier, which Estonian authorities see as a sign of Soviet occupation and Russians revere as a symbol of war heroism.

Estonia, which became a European Union (EU) member three years ago, has been accused by Moscow of discrimination against Russian speakers, who make up a quarter of its 1.3 million population.

Apart from security, the Estonian consulate spokesman said the Consulate would be unable to resume work Monday because the wall of the building had been covered with slogans "insulting the Estonian state".

Members of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi (Ours) are protesting in front of the consulate and the adjacent embassy building in Moscow. They have set up tent camps and plan to stay there until Estonian authorities apologize and return the monument to its original site. The protesters attempted to address Ambassador Marina Kaljurand with petitions and blocked her car, but she managed to switch cars.

The Kremlin press service said Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed serious concern over the dramatic developments in Estonia in his telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently presiding over the EU.

"Merkel in turn spoke for an early resolution to the situation and urged both sides to stick to a moderate position," the press service said. The EU has been maintaining neutrality in the Russian-Estonian spat over the monument, saying it is a matter of bilateral relations.

In St. Petersburg, about 100 members of the Nashi movement have gathered near the Estonian Embassy, joined by WWII veterans. They are carrying Russian flags and chanting: "Down with vandalism" and "Fascism will not do".

In Tallinn, latest police reports said 800 people had been arrested between Thursday night and Saturday morning in the city, where police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The raging crowd shattered windows in buildings near the monument, damaged bus stops and parked cars and set billboards on fire. Sixty people, including police officers, have been injured.

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn has also said about 22 Russian protesters were arrested in the city on the Thursday-Friday night.

Russian protester, death

A Russian national was killed in the Estonian capital on the first night of the clashes, and the Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded details and documents about his death from Estonian authorities.

A senior spokesman for the Estonian Foreign Ministry, Ehtel Halliste, said the ministry had handed over the required information to the Russian Embassy in Tallinn. The police documents said the 20-year-old man, Dmitry Ganin, had been stabbed in the chest and later died in the hospital. Police warned there was no evidence that police officers were to blame.

The Russian ministry demanded full information about the circumstances of Ganin's death and progress in the investigation, and called for the culprits to be brought to justice.

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