"As recent developments in Estonia concerning the Tõnismäe Second World War Memorial in Tallinn have arisen several questions and some of you have asked what is going on with this statute and weather the signals from Russia that we are doing something completely unethical and against the international laws, I hereby send you a short description of this complicated issue. Background information is attached for the ones who would like to know more about the historical developments and reasoning behind it.
- Ensuring that the final resting place of the deceased, including those who have died in battle, is peaceful and decent is in Estonia’s view inherent and essential.
- Tõnismägi is clearly not suitable as a final resting place. During the Soviet occupation, a public transport bus and trolley stop was built on part of the site. And in the past year, political activists have held numerous mass meetings there. Essentially people are being allowed to tread on a grave site, which is by any standard objectionable and cannot be allowed to continue.
- Based on a recommendation made by the War Graves Commission, the Minister of Defence has decided that work should start on identifying the war graves believed to be located on Tõnismägi. There is sufficient archival evidence indicating that 12 people are buried at this location.
- If human remains are indeed discovered at the site, then they will be reburied at an appropriate location – the Garrison Cemetery in central Tallinn. At the same time, the so-called Bronze Soldier war memorial will also be relocated to the Garrison Cemetery.
Servicemen and soldiers killed in action, including Estonian, British and Russian soldiers, have been buried in the Garrison Cemetery already since the 19th century.
- All works will be carried out in accordance with Estonia laws, international law (including the relevant Geneva convention) and good practice.
- Unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to sign a bilateral war graves agreement between Estonia and Russia. Russian representatives have also been unwilling to cooperate with Estonia on the Tõnismägi war graves site.
- Estonia will inform Russia of any remains that are found at the site and of their reburial so that Russia, as the country of citizenship, can inform any known relatives of the findings. The relatives as well as official representatives of the Russian Federation will be welcome to attend the reburial ceremony.
- Estonia’s aim is to ensure that those who died in the war have a proper last resting place. It is regrettable that this is being used as a pretext for disseminating false and antagonistic propaganda.
- The misinformation campaign that Russia has launched in not only aimed at discrediting Estonia. Russian diplomats in Estonia have also actively led and organized the activities of political fringe groups. The Estonian security services have ascertained that the likely war graves on Tõnismägi and their marker are being used as a pretext for inciting hatred. This information has been made know to the wider public."