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Ansip, Laaneots: Russian agents present during Bronze Night riots

Bronze Night rioters burning the Estonian flag.
Bronze Night rioters burning the Estonian flag. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

The European Union’s commissioner for the single digital market, Andrus Ansip, who at the time of the Bronze Night riots in 2007 was Estonia’s prime minister, told daily Postimees that Russian special forces officers were in Tallinn coordinating the riots. Ants Laaneots, at the time chief of staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, said the same earlier this week.

According to Ansip, it was the assessment at the time of both Estonia’s special services as well as the crisis management committee that the Bronze Soldier would have to be moved sooner or later, but that if they waited, the cost to society would only be higher.

The right place for the monument was indeed the cemetery, Ansip said, as the mourning soldier could be a symbol there for all that had fallen in the war.

After the events, they had learned that Russian officers had been in Tallinn at the time of the riots that specialized in orchestrating mass unrest, Ansip said. “We know that the man who was supposed to document these events turned out to be an FSB agent, locked himself in the toilet and got drunk,” Ansip said, referring to convicted traitor Aleksei Dressen.

Dressen and his wife were found guilty in 2012 of having forwarded state secrets to Russian security service FSB. Dressen was eventually exchanged for Eston Kohver, an officer of the Internal Security Service that was kidnapped and dragged across the border by the FSB on Sept. 5, 2014.

MP Ants Laaneots (Reform), at the time the chief of staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, made similar statements. According to the retired general, the riots had been organized and kept going by Russian agents.

“They brought vodka in by car, and distributed it among the rioters,” Laaneots told TV4’s Kuuuurija news show. Officers observing the riots at the time also reported well-trained young men giving instructions to the rioters. “Spetsnaz, the Russian army’s special unit. We’re not far away from Pskov,” Laaneots pointed out.

The Russian 2nd Special Purpose (Spetsnaz) Brigade is stationed in Pskov, some 30 km away from the Estonian border. Bringing some of its 900 men into Estonia was “no problem at all”, Laaneots said.

Support for the rioters had come at three levels. Young men in suits had taken the lead, followed by so-called sotniks (commanders of a hundred), who led different groups of rioters. A third group supplied flammable liquids and fuel, vodka, and other alcoholic drinks. “This was organized throughout,” Laaneots said.

The Estonian authorities deported rioters with Russian passports. Some of them were put on the European Union’s entry blacklist.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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