After 20 years, Russia and Estonia sign border treaty

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference after a meeting with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Moscow, February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Estonia signed a treaty setting out the position of their joint border on Tuesday after more than 20 years of wrangling that reflected tension between Moscow and the small Baltic state.

The treaty must still be ratified by the parliaments of both Russia and Estonia, which has joined NATO and the EU since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Russia and Estonia have a frontier with operating border posts but animus that built up over decades of Soviet dominance hampered efforts to formalize it.

“I am sure this will ... strengthen the atmosphere of trust and cooperation,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after signing the pact with Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet.

Estonia was occupied by Soviet forces in 1940. They returned, after evicting German troops, in 1944 and Estonia remained part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

Russia says Soviet forces liberated eastern Europe from Nazi Germany, and bristles at those who question its narrative of World War Two and the postwar era.

The nations signed a border treaty in 2005 but Russia refused to ratify it after Estonian lawmakers adopted ratification documents that Moscow said could have led to demands for land or compensation.

Ties remain tense. Russian officials have accused authorities in Estonia of condoning efforts to treat the Nazis as heroes and of discriminating against the Russian-speaking minority in the nation of 1.3 million - allegations that Estonia dismisses.

Additional reporting by David Mardiste in Tallinn; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Andrew Heavens