War of words over Tallinn's bronze soldier

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TALLINN, Estonia -- A Nazi state has been reborn within the European Union and its "blasphemous" leaders are bent on glorifying the Third Reich and insulting Russia. There is talk of sanctions and even of internal armed resistance.

That, at least, is the view from Moscow, where politicians from President Vladimir Putin on down have condemned the government in the tiny Baltic republic of Estonia.

On a snow swept square outside the medieval walls of Tallinn's old town stands the cause of a row that is straining Russia's relations with its former-Soviet neighbours.

The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn was erected 60 years ago. For the country's Russian-speaking minority, the statue symbolises liberation and the defeat of Nazism; for the Estonian majority it represents half a century of brutal Soviet occupation.

Last month Estonia's parliament gave initial backing to legislation that could see the statue moved to a war cemetery on the capital's outskirts along with what are believed to be the remains of 13 Russian soldiers buried under a nearby bus stop.

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