TALLINN - Estonian police have mounted a permanent guard over a statue in downtown Tallinn that is at the center of an ongoing controversy, the Estonian government press service said Friday.
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip earlier called for the "Soldier-Liberator" monument, which commemorates the Red Army's role in ejecting Nazi troops from the country in WWII, to be moved out of the city center, drawing criticism from Russia's Foreign Ministry and ethnic-Russian groups in Estonia.
The decision to post a 24-hour guard to protect the monument was made at the government's session Thursday, after the statue was painted white and blue - two of the colors of the Estonian flag - in the early hours of May 21.
"Considering the current situation, the government believes that in order to prevent inter-ethnic conflict and violations of public order it would be expedient to set up a 24-hour a day guard post at the monument," Estonian Interior Minister Kalle Laanet said.
Relations between Russia and Estonia have been poor in the last few years, as Estonia seeks official recognition of what it calls Soviet occupation from Russia - the Soviet Union's successor state under international law - while Russia accuses the Baltic state of discriminating against ethnic Russians living there.