Row sparked over war graves in Moscow

As Russia is battling with the decision of the Estonian authorities to dismantle the Soviet Soldier monument in Tallinn, a similar row is taking place in the Russian capital, Moscow.

The authorities of the city of Khimki just northwest of Moscow used their legal powers to rebury the remains of six pilots who died during World War II. The authorities wanted to move the bodies to make way for a new road scheme.

The decision has sparked a vitriolic reaction from Russian politicians and officials.

“The moral degradation of the Khimki officials who are behind this decision has not just dropped to its lowest, it is below any permissible moral criteria,” says State Duma Deputy Gennady Gudkov.

A sentiment echoed by the Speaker of Russia's Upper House of Parliament Sergey Mironov. He wants the whole episode investigated, and thinks the undertaking shows gross disrespect to the memory of the dead.

Moscow region's Governor, Boris Gromov, says he is critical of the dismantlement of the monuments, but adds that the furor is ungrounded.

The remains are going to be moved to a cemetery in the town's central park which will also have a new memorial.

Those behind the project say the work actually began three years ago. They say it's completely legal since the relatives of the ones who died had been notified of the reburial.

“A campaign to rebury the remains of the Soviet soldiers has been on since 2004. A resolution allowing the reburial of soldiers who died during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 was published in 2006,” says  Aleksandr Danilovsky, Khimki Administration Representative.

The veterans say the new place where the remains will be reburied is better.

“Everybody gave their consent for the remains to be reburied. And finally the funds were allocated. The construction of a new monument began at the cemetery according to a beautiful sketch. And I am sure it will be more peaceful for the dead to lie in the cemetery than in this place which is close to the road. In my opinion, the soldiers will definitely feel more comfortable in the cemetery where we bury the war veterans,” says Nadezhda Frolova, a veteran, Council representative, Khimki.

All of this is happening as Russia is condemning the removal of the Soviet Soldier monument in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

However, the United Russia Deputy Gennady Gudkov has a different take on this: “I don’t think a comparison can be drawn between Tallinn’s conscientious anti-Russian policy pursued by the Estonian authorities and the rapacious, dishonest and greedy interests of the Khimki officials who are digging out the bones of those who saved our state from the enemy and preserved the possibility of peaceful development for them and their families. Today, they have betrayed the memory of their ancestors,” says Gennady Gudkov.

Despite going through the legal process, the authorities in Khimki have brought the wrath of national politicians down on their shoulders. The sensitivity of the issue surrounding the Estonian monument means that any war memorial carries a political yoke.