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Europe Implicated in Statue Dispute

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday accused the European Union and NATO of conniving with nations that disrespect the memory of Soviet soldiers and seeking to rewrite history, the latest angry words in a dispute deepened by Estonia's relocation of a World War II monument.

The Defense Ministry said, meanwhile, that it would set up offices in several countries that would be responsible for the preservation of war graves.

"Attempts to make a mockery of history are becoming an element and an instrument of the foreign policy of certain countries," Lavrov said Monday at a ceremony honoring Russian diplomats who died during the war.

"Unfortunately, certain organizations, such as NATO and the EU, connive with these attempts," he said.

Estonian authorities late last month removed a monument to Soviet soldiers who died in the war from a square in Tallinn, prompting riots by members of the Russian-speaking minority and heated criticism from Russian officials and politicians.

Russians regard the monument as a tribute to the millions of Soviet soldiers who died fighting the Nazis -- and, in Russia's view, liberating nations such as Estonia -- while many Estonians regard it as a symbol of Soviet repression and a half-century of occupation.

The heightened tension comes ahead of celebrations Wednesday of the anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

The immensely costly victory is one of the proudest moments in Russian history, and Russian officials have repeatedly stressed that their view of the past is indisputable.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday stressed Russia's losses in the war, but said that on Victory Day, Russia honors the memory of all victims of fascism.

"Unfortunately, not everybody understands that Russia lost more people in this war than the rest of the world combined," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. "That's the way it is, but we pay tribute to the memory of all victims of Nazism. This includes anti-fascists in Germany itself. It includes our allies in World War II."

Putin is set to sign a decree that would set up representative offices of the Defense Ministry in countries containing large numbers of graves of Red Army soldiers who died in World War II, Kommersant reported Monday.

The Defense Ministry has drafted a decree establishing such representative offices in 14 countries that account for some 95 percent of Soviet graves from World War II, said General Alexander Kirillin, head of the ministry's memorial center, the newspaper reported.

Kirillin said the draft decree would allocate $1 million for opening such offices in seven countries by next year that would take stock of graves, identify those buried in them, and carry out preservation work where needed.

"First of all, we plan this year to open representation offices in 'problematic' countries, where there are more graves, such as Germany, as well in those countries where outbursts of discontent with history are strongest: Poland, Hungary and the Baltics," Kirillin told Kommersant.

n Poland has shelved legislation that would allow the removal of monuments to Soviet soldiers located on its soil, fearing it could upset Russia on the eve of Victory Day.

(The Moscow Times 08.v.07)

 
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