TALLINN - The much-discussed monument in Lihula commemorating Estonia's WWII freedom fighters was removed by police on late Thursday evening by order of the national government.
Police forces gathered in Lihula to secure the monument removal included 44 law enforcement officers, including some from the riot police unit and the Estonian SWAT-type unit K-commando and one dog.Police had to use batons and pepper gas to tame the crowd of over 100 locals who showed up to oppose the action and threw stones at the removal crew and police vehicles.
The operator of the crane that was to put the monument into a truck for further removal was injured as the locals stoned the machine.
Eleven police and rescue department vehicles were damaged with the stones.
According to the government's press office, the monument erected in Lihula on Aug. 20 this year stands on the state-owned land without the consent of the owner.
The government stated that the Lihula monument, depicting a soldier wearing German uniform, was illegal and "damaged the image of Estonia regardless of the goals pursued by its initiators."
Shortly after its unveiling, the monument was condemned by Russian and Jewish interest groups as commemorating Estonians who fought in the ranks of the SS during WWII.
"The Estonian government does not consider it appropriate to built monuments that may be interpreted as an attempt to commemorate totalitarian regimes that had occupied Estonia," read the government statement.
The realization of the monument was unsuccessful and did not fulfill its primary goal - to commemorate those who fought for Estonia's freedom, the government said.
The government expressed readiness to cooperate with the local government in erecting a more appropriate monument to the freedom fighters.
"It [the monument] rather throws a shade on that by linking that struggle to a totalitarian regime that had occupied Estonia," the government press service stated.
Right-wing politicians, including the Pro Patria Union and the Estonia's Independence Party condemned the government action and called for the removal of the Soviet monuments such as the so-called Bronze Soldier in the center of Tallinn.