Estonian lawmakers vote to remove Soviet memorial but president will veto

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TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonian lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill calling for the removal of a disputed Soviet war memorial, ignoring warnings from Moscow, but the president said he would veto the measure.

In a 46-44 vote, lawmakers in the 101-member assembly approved the Law on Forbidden Structures, which prohibits the public display of monuments that glorify the five-decade Soviet occupation of Estonia. Eleven lawmakers were absent or abstained.

The measure was specifically aimed at the Bronze Soldier, a World War II memorial in downtown Tallinn that has become a rallying point for Estonia's ethnic Russians, who make up about one-third of the Baltic country's 1.3 million residents.

Plans to remove the two-meter (six-foot) statue and a nearby war grave have infuriated officials in Russia, who accuse Estonia and neighboring Latvia of discriminating against Russian-speakers.

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