Russia Starts Paying Benefits to WWII Veterans in Baltics (1)
Beginning in November, Russia will begin paying monthly pensions to its World War II veterans in the Baltic countries, regardless of citizenship.
Depending on the exchange rate, veterans will be receiving up to about 25 euros, reported ERR radio.
Despite the modest sum, Tatjana Soboljova, who lived through the Leningrad Blockade, said: "It is still an additional income. After all, our pensions are just 250-340 euros. That's not much."
Latvia has responded harshly to Russia's move, with the country's defense minister, Artis Pabriks, denouncing it as soft power and an attempt to break up Latvian society.
In an official response, the Estonian Defense Ministry appears less concerned, finding that paying a little bit of support to the few remaining veterans will do little harm.
The Estonian government currently supports Finnish and German veteran organizations, and has supported Soviet Army veterans in the past.
"We had a good partnership with the Estonian Men at the Front Association, which joined men who had fought on both sides, but that association has unfortunately terminated its activities," said Defense Ministry press representative Artur Jugaste.
"Our standpoint is that in World War II Estonian men were in a forced position; they did not have a choice in deciding which side of the war to fight on. And we believe it is in itself completely normal that countries remember and support their veterans," Jugaste added.
Estonian World War II veterans have also received support from Finland, which pays 1,000 euros per month to those who fought in Finnish ranks.
The former head of the Association of Finnish Veterans in Estonia, Raul Kuutma, said he saw nothing wrong with Russia supporting its veterans.
"It is, nevertheless, a very nice step on the part of the Russian government, although very much belated. But better late than never. Let them pay, it's not like we're jealous," Kuutma said.