A leading Russian parliamentarian has repeated an annual criticism of summer gatherings of World War II veterans in Estonia, this time resorting to harsher rhetoric and calling it a "Nazi sabbath."
The remarks were made by the Federation Council foreign affairs committee chairman, Mikhail Margelov, and included other comments about a "general neo-Nazi backdrop." They were in response to Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu sending greetings to a July 6 gathering organized by the Estonian Freedom Fighter Association.
"Tens of thousands of Estonian men and women kept the ideals of liberty alive during the difficult occupation years, expressing, in words and deeds, their resistance to the occupation regimes. In the absence of other opportunities, many had to do so wearing a foreign uniform," said Urmas Reinsalu in the greetings sent to the gathering in Põlva of largely octogenarians.
Russia, which often views World War II as a narrow national conflict and calls it the Great Patriotic War, has been sensitive to memorial events honoring veterans from other sides.
For its part, Estonia maintains that since its military had been abolished by that time and weapons surrendered due to the Soviet coup in 1940, it was morally acceptable for Estonians to fight, four years later, in foreign uniforms against a Soviet invading force that had already wrought great destruction in 1940 and 1941.
Estonian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Marko Mihkelson brushed off the remarks from Margelov and said they would not affect bilateral relations. "Actually there's nothing unusual in that unusually nasty use of words," he said. "In the past historical topics have from time to time raised high emotions in bilateral relations, but they haven't changed the big picture."