January 14, 2008 / 2:43 PM / 10 years ago

Estonia puts four on trial over April riots

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia put four ethnic Russians on trial on Monday over riots last year when the authorities moved a Soviet-era war memorial, protests which the authorities say were in part organized and financed from Russia.

<p>A woman touches a bronze statue of a World War Two Red Army soldier that was relocated from the city centre to a military cemetery in Tallinn April 30, 2007. Estonia put four ethnic Russians on trial on Monday over riots last year when the authorities moved the Soviet-era war memorial, protests which the authorities say were in part organized and financed from Russia. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins</p>

The disturbances last April coincided with attacks on Estonian Web sites, some of which the authorities said they had traced to official Russian servers. Russia has denied any involvement.

Estonian news providers reported renewed disruption to their services over the weekend before the opening of the trial.

Mainly Russian-speaking protesters went on the rampage for three days after the government moved a World War Two monument from the centre of the capital, Tallinn, to a cemetery.

Russia was angered by the move and relations remain tense between two countries which were once part of the Soviet Union.

The men on trial deny charges of organizing riots in which one person died of stab wounds and hundreds were injured.

The trial began with reading the indictment and hearing pleas from the accused, court spokeswoman Dagne Hanschmidt said. The men are Dmitri Linter, Maksim Reva, Dmitri Klenski and Mark Sirik.

The charges said the first three were leaders of a Russian activist group in Estonia, Night Watch, while the fourth is head of the Estonian chapter of the Kremlin-backed youth group Nashi.

Estonian news providers said on Monday they had been victims of renewed “cyber-attacks”.

Delfi news portal news chief editor Tonu Pedaru said the connection to servers abroad was cut on Friday. “From yesterday, Sunday afternoon, the connection has been restored,” he told Reuters.

Estonia’s computer emergency response team said the Friday attack was a denial of service attack from machines around the world. This involves repeated requests to a Web site, forcing it to crash or be paralyzed. This was the method used in April.

The Estonian events raised the profile of the concept of a cyber war, involving attacks on increasingly vital Internet infrastructure. Military alliance NATO also took up the issue.

The disturbances highlighted a continuing split between ethnic Estonians and local Russian-speakers, who make up about a third of the 1.3 million population.

Estonian relations with Russia hit a new post-Soviet low after the April events as Moscow regards war memorials as a symbol of the huge sacrifices made by the Soviet Union.

Estonia said the monument had become a focus of tension for both Russian and Estonian nationalists.

Reporting by David Mardiste; editing by Keith Weir

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