Soviet Veterans Mark Victory Day, Protesters Picket Russian Embassy (2)
About 200 Soviet World War II veterans gathered in Tallinn today, May 9, to mark the 66th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
As it does each year, the celebratory event included a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bronze Soldier monument in the Defense Forces Cemetery, as well as a social gathering and performances at the city's Russian Cultural Center.
A rus.err.ee reporter present at the gathering said that the veterans were in "high spirits" and that the mood was festive.
Though it usually passes without serious incident, the celebration is controversial in Estonia as the Soviet victory was also the start of a decades-long period of harsh repression and occupation of the country by a foreign power.
This year a handful of activists from the Estonian National Movement used the occasion to picket the Russian embassy, demanding that Russia recognize what the group calls the crimes of the communist regime.
The picket was mainly ignored by locals, only drawing the attention of press photographers as well as a few curious tourists who wanted their photos taken with the protesters, rus.err.ee reported.
In the past, May 9 ceremonies have been marred by clashes between small groups of pro-Russian and pro-Estonian nationalists. In 2007, the Bronze Soldier monument itself was moved to the cemetery from its city center location, a process that sparked two days of rioting.