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Associated Press
Tear Gas Scatters Protesters in Estonia
By JARI TANNER 04.26.07, 1:39 PM ET

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters at a disputed Soviet memorial Thursday as authorities prepared to exhume the bodies of Red Army soldiers killed fighting the Nazis during World War II.

After largely peaceful rallies throughout the day, tensions escalated Thursday evening as a group of protesters tried to break through a line of police officers guarding the monument.

Police fired tear gas at the protesters and moved in a vehicle with a water cannon.

Dozens of police had formed lines to keep some 600 protesters away from the Bronze Soldier monument after workers built a large white pavilion beneath which excavation of the grave will take place. Nine people were detained before the clashes began, Tallinn police chief, Raivo Kuut, told reporters.

Estonia's government intends to relocate the Soviet grave - which is believed to contain the remains of 14 soldiers - and the Bronze Soldier statue next to it.

The Baltic state's ethnic Russians - roughly one-third of the 1.3 million population - see the memorial as a tribute to Red Army soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germany and have vowed to protect it. Many ethnic Estonians, however, say the memorial is a painful reminder of the hardships they endured under Soviet rule.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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