Russia complains about military competition

  • 2007-08-07
  • From wire reports
MOSCOW - The Erna Retk military competition that began in Estonia Aug 7 is another attempt to rewrite history, the chairman of the Russian State Duma external affairs committee has claimed, promising to raise the question with the Council of Europe.

"In contrast to the Soviet-era Zarnitsa war games, which had an undefined enemy, the allies and enemies in the Estonian exercise are obvious," Konstantin Kosachyov told Russian news agency Interfax.

There is no excuse for such war games, the Russian lawmaker said. "This is another attempt to depict the Estonians who fought for Hitler as freedom fighters," he said.

About 70,000 Estonians who joined the Waffen SS during the German occupation of Estonia and fought against the Soviet Union were not fighting for the independence of Estonia, he declared: "This is a historic fact, a shameful page of Estonian history, and modern nationalists are trying to whitewash it at any cost."

In his words, this aspiration "is even more improper since Estonia has joined the European Union and NATO and thus pledged its allegiance to European values, which include the complete rejection of Nazism."

The president of the Erna Society, Meelis Ratsep, earlier told BNS that although the Russian Foreign Ministry has previously not attacked the competition, now in its 14th year, not a single year has passed without certain Russian publications giving it a distorted interpretation.

This year's Erna Retk started with a line-up at the St George's Night Park in Tallinn. 28 teams are competing, including 10 teams from foreign countries including Portugal, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and the United States.

The first Erna Retk took place in the summer of 1993 when a group of history enthusiasts traversed the North Estonian wilderness along the route taken by the legendary Erna group.

The Erna group was a reconnaissance unit of Estonian participants in the Finnish Winter War who landed at Salmistu in the rear of the Red Army in the summer of 1941. Later the group joined hostilities in occupied Estonia.

On July 31, 1941 Erna fighters engaged in a fierce battle with Red Army soldiers that made it possible for thousands of civilians hiding in the Kautla woods to escape.