NATO accused pro-Kremlin youths of unacceptable intimidation against Estonia’s embassy in Moscow, saying on Thursday it must stop and that Russia-Estonia tensions should be defused diplomatically. Days of protests at the embassy over Estonia’s relocation of a Soviet war memorial escalated on Wednesday when demonstrators stormed a news conference shortly before the ambassador arrived and were dispersed by bodyguards spraying gas. Diplomats said the protests amounted to a blockade of the embassy of Estonia, which is a NATO and European Union member.
”NATO is deeply concerned by threats to the physical safety of Estonian diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, in Moscow, as well as intimidation at the Estonian Embassy,” the U.S.-led defence alliance said in a statement. ”These actions are unacceptable, and must be stopped immediately; tensions over the Soviet war memorial and graves in Estonia must be resolved diplomatically between the two countries.” The statement called on Russia to meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which includes the requirement of the host nation to protect embassies. The NATO statement follows a sharp deteriotation in ties between the 26-nation alliance and Moscow following President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week that he was freezing Russia’s commitments under a European arms control pact.
Russia halted deliveries of oil products to Estonia on Wednesday, a move likely to revive Western fears that the Kremlin is using its energy might as a political weapon against ex-Soviet neighbours. Moscow and Tallinn have been trading barbs since Estonia last week moved a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier -- revered in Russia as a symbol of its huge sacrifices in World War Two -- from its spot in the centre of the capital. Estonia said the statue was a public order menace and focus for Estonian and Russian nationalists. Many Estonians see the statue as a reminder of 50 years of Soviet rule. Germany, holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, said on Wednesday it was deeply concerned about the row and the EU’s executive Commission said it would send a delegation to raise the matter with Moscow.