Russian Foreign Ministry has sharply criticized the Estonian Defense Minister’s address to the country’s veterans of the Waffen SS, in which the official suggested that the Soviet and Nazi troops were equal during WWII.
Minister Urmas Reinsalu addressed the weekend meeting of the Estonian Freedom Fighters Union – the organization that unites the veterans of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division, also known as the First Estonian.
In his speech the official stated that Estonia “had repeatedly condemned the repressive policies of the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany, as well as the actions of people who committed crimes against humanity.”
Russia called the statement “another attempt to put on one scale the Soviet Union that has made a decisive contribution into ridding Europe of the ‘brown plague’, and Nazi Germany.” Russian diplomats also noted that the Estonian minister chose not to remind the public about such outrageous crimes as the total destruction by the Nazis of the two ethnic groups that resided in Estonia before the war – the Jews and the Roma (Gypsies) – as well as the fact that the genocide was committed largely by Estonian collaborators.
In addition, the Russian side pointed out that over the past 20 years the Estonian authorities have not even once shown due respect to the veterans of the Estonian Rifle Corps of the Red Army. At the same time, the veterans who once donned the uniforms of the Waffen SS and other of Hitler’s formations are greeted by Estonia’s state officials and receive decorations and awards.
“Therefore, such activities cannot be appraised in any other way but as a premeditated planting of pro-Nazi sentiments in the society,” the Russian note reads.
Estonia’s Freedom Fighters Union is a public organization with about 2,000 members who fought on the side of Nazi Germany in WWII. In total, about 80,000 Estonians joined Nazi troops during the war and 3,000 more fought as volunteers in the Finnish Army, which was also an ally of Nazi Germany. At the same time, about 30,000 Estonians joined the Red Army ranks forming the Estonian Rifle Corps.
Russia has repeatedly voiced protests over glorification of Nazism in Estonia as re-unions of veterans happen in this country almost annually and each time the authorities send official greetings to former Waffen SS soldiers.