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Estonia trial begins for ethnic Russians accused of violence over WWII memorial

[JURIST] Four ethnic Russian Estonians accused of taking part in violence that occurred last year during the removal of a Red Army war memorial in Tallinn went on trial in Estonia Monday. The violence occurred last April when Estonia removed the prominent yet controversial Bronze Soldier [IHT report] from the capital city and more than 1,000 ethnic Russians protested, saying the removal denigrated World War II Soviet soldiers. The Estonian government said the statute had become a source of tension [Der Spiegel report] between nationals of the two countries. The protests resulted in the death of one Russian citizen. The four men on trial face up to five years in prison if found guilty. All have denied the charges.

Last year's violence surrounding the removal of the statute marked escalating tensions between Russia and Estonia [JURIST news archives], which gained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. The monument was a reminder to many Estonians of the years of Soviet occupation. Earlier this month, Russia put public pressure on Estonia [Russia Today report] to step up the murder investigation into the Russian citizen killed during the protests. BBC News has more.

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