Military games draw fresh accusations

  • 2007-08-15
  • Joel Alas and wire reports
TALLINN - Estonia has again come under fire in the Russian media for hosting a military sports event that honors a World War II campaign.
On Aug. 11, 28 teams from law enforcement and defense agencies took part in the Erna Raid, a military competition in the Kautla region.
The competition sees participants recreate a famous campaign carried out by Estonian soldiers as part of the German invasion of Soviet-occupied Estonia in 1941.

The competition's organizers, the Erna Society, claim it is one of the world's "longest and most difficult military competitions," and each year it attracts more than 600 volunteers and participants from around the world.
However, it also attracts criticism from within Russia, which claims the competition glorifies Nazi Germany.
This is despite the fact that the original Estonian soldiers who carried out the Erna Raid wore Finnish uniforms and refused to swear oaths of allegiance to the Nazi leadership.

About 20 members of the Kremlin-sponsored youth organization Nashi staged a protest against the competition in Vladivostok on Aug. 10, the Interfax news agency reported.
Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo hit out at the criticism, saying Russia was again ignoring its own atrocities during World War II.
"Estonians view the Erna Raid as a tribute to exceptionally brave men in defending Estonia's freedom by standing firm and protecting innocent civilians from the acts of violence of a superior and merciless enemy," Aaviksoo said.
"Russia's hostile media cannot ever compromise the memory of persons who fought against the occupation of Estonia, with or without arms, in forests or by the strength of words."
Meelis Ratsep, President of the Erna Association, said the competition was particularly challenging this year because of high temperatures and the "massive Russian slander campaign and blatant accusations" against it.
The Estonian Reserve Officer's Body won the competition, which includes marksmanship events, ground races, orienteering and water games.

Teams from the U.S., Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic took part, alongside teams from the Estonian military, police and border guard services.