Estonian MP rejects Russian criticism over war graves

  • 2000-05-25
TALLINN (BNS) - MP Kullo Arjakas, a member of the governing board of
the War Graves Union, said on May 22 that Russia's accusations
concerning the Baltic states' alleged unwillingness to care for Soviet
war graves were groundless, because Russia didn't have respective
accords with the three countries.

"Here the universal principle applies that every parish must care for
its own cripples," Arjakas, a member of the opposition Center Party,
told BNS.

He said it was each count-ry's task to care for the graves of its
soldiers in other countries.

As Arjakas said, there are about 270 Soviet World War II cemeteries and
burial sites in Estonia, which presently are maintained at very
different levels.

The problem lies in the lack of an agreement on war graves between
Estonia and Russia. Civilized nations normally sign an agreement with
each other under which war graves are cared for, the MP said.

While Germany has signed such an agreement with Estonia, as it has with
other countries on whose territory its soldiers fought in World War II,
solving the issue with Russia has been stalled since 1996.

"Also, Estonia should assume the obligation to care for the cemeteries
of Estonians in Russia," Arjakas said, adding that there were very few
such cemeteries.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in response to an inquiry by
Parliament last week that the athorities of Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania deliberately protract regulation of the status of Soviet war

Russia has been seeking opportunities since 1993 to settle the issue of
Soviet war graves in the Baltic countries, but the authorities of those
countries are artificially protacting settlement of the issue, Ivanov
told the State Duma lower house.

In all, more than 3 million Soviet soldiers lie buried in the
neighboring countries, Ivanov said.

Ivanov said that the most effective way to maintain memorials was on
the basis of inter-grovernmental agreements, which Russia has so far
signed with Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Finland, the Czech
Republic and Japan.

Ivanov underlined that even despite the lack respective agreements,
Soviet war memorials are being kept in good order in Belgium, Greece,
Denmark, Spain, China, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, France,
Croatia and Yugoslavia.