MOSCOW - The Russian Foreign Ministry has launched another strongly-worded attack against Estonia, branding a reunion of former SS soldiers in Estonia's East Viru County as the "glorification of Nazism in Estonia."
"Reports about a regular gathering of veterans of the Estonian 20th SS division, dubbed 'freedom fighters' by the Estonian authorities in breach of the universally accepted decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal, evoke deep indignation in Moscow. The fact that similar neo-Nazi occurrences in a European Union member state are assuming a mass character and are becoming internationalized arouses concern," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement July 30.
The ministry added that the commemoration amounted to "the glorification of the former SS soldiers' activity during World War Two."
"An attempt to glorify fascism manifests itself in the Estonian government's attitude to the upcoming Erna Raid military and sports competition scheduled for August 6-11, which retraces the route of the Abwehr sabotage group that operated behind Soviet lines in August 1941," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry expressed surprise that "some countries, members of the anti-Hitler coalition and Resistance movement, are sending their representatives to the Erna Raid and thus giving moral support to those who interpret the historical role of SS and Abwehr units in a very peculiar way."
"Support for similar actions with an obviously provocative subtext can't be regarded other than as connivance in attempts to popularize Nazism and revise the results of the Second World War," the statement goes on to say.
Estonians and other Balts fought with Hitler's forces as members of specially-mustered Waffen SS units. Only ethnic Germans were allowed to join the Wehrmacht (German regular army) to fight the Soviet forces occupying the independent Baltic States as a result of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939.
Meanwhile in Russia itself, six Russian Estonians at a Nashi summer camp reportedly raised the Estonian national flag on their tent to refute accusations of fascism in Estonia, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reported. Nashi is a Russian nationalist youth group formed in 2005.
Roman Yelfimov, leader of the Estonian branch of the pro-Kremlin youth organization, told the paper that it was absurd to brand Estonia as a fascist country.
"We are here in order to undertake something against the Estophobia spreading among Russians and Nashi members," Yelfimov said.
Since the beginning of June Estonian authorities have deported more than ten Nashi members from Estonia who have attempted to personify a "living memorial" to the Soviet war dead while dressed in old military uniforms at the original site of the relocated Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was critical of Russia's repeated accusations that the government are Nazi sympathisers.
"Estonia has condemned fascism as have many other world countries," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman reported Paet as saying.
The minister added that instead Russia should pay attention to its domestic concerns such as xenophobia and attacks against foreigners.