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3 Jul, 2007 11:17

Estonia reburies Soviet soldiers

The remains of eight Soviet soldiers, who were buried under a WW2 memorial in Estonia's capital Tallinn, have been moved to a new grave in the city's military cemetery Siselinna on Tuesday.

The Bronze Soldier monument was removed from the centre of Tallinn in late April, causing protests in the Estonia's capital and Russia.

The remains of twelve Soviet soldiers, eleven men and a woman, who died while liberating Tallinn from the Nazis were exhumed from a mass grave near the monument. Three of the soldiers' bodies have been taken by the relatives: two were reburied in their native soil in Russia, while another was interned in Israel.

One more body has passed a DNA test and relatives in Ukraine are willing to take the remains of this soldier to rebury him there.

On Tuesday, the remains of eight other soldiers were reburied in the military cemetery in the suburbs of Tallinn. Hundreds of people including up to 20 official delegations, including those from Ukraine and Belarus, attended the reburial. According to Estonian side, Russian delegation was also invited.

Nevertheless, Russian representatives did not attend the ceremony, apparently, in protest against the original removal of the monument. Ethnic Russians in Tallinn believe it was a show organised by those responsible for the dismantling of the memorial, which they described as an 'attempt to re-write history'. They point to the fact that the Order of the Great Patriotic War, which decorated the Bronze Soldier, has been removed.

The official ceremony lasted for about an hour. And later, an alternative one started – the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of  the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Cornelius of Tallinn and All Estonia held a memorial service that was attended by some ethnic Russians.