Third night of protests in Estonia

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Police in Estonia arrested more than 200 people yesterday following a third night of protests over the government's decision to remove a Soviet war memorial in the country's capital.

According to reports around 150 people in Tallinn were detained for various offences, although the city did not suffer a repeat of the violence witnessed over the preceding two nights, during which one Russian protestor was killed.

Since protests began on Thursday over the removal of the bronze second world war statue around 1,000 people have been arrested, with police having been forced to use rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to quell previous unrest in the capital, during which over 150 people were injured and local buildings damaged.

The streets of Talinn remained largely quiet last night, but police said that 50 people were arrested in the town of Narva, which lies close to the Russian border, in a bid to prevent further violence.

Other arrests were also made in two separate towns in eastern Estonia.

Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip has called for calm in the wake of the rioting prompted by the removal of the statue, which was erected in 1947 to honour Red Army soldiers who fought against the Nazis.

But while Ethnic Russians, who make up around a third of Estonia's population, see the memorial as a recognition of Russia's efforts in the fight against fascism, supporters of the statue's removal associate the monument with the 50-year period during which the Baltic state was ruled by the Soviet Union.

Commenting following the worst violence seen in Estonia since it was granted independence in 1991, Mr Ansip warned in a televised address: "We must not let the sowers of hatred become the ones to split the nation or to plant prejudice."

Referring to claims that a grave containing the bodies of several Soviet soldiers is located near the former site of the statue, the Estonian premier also confirmed that any remains which were found by the authorities would be moved to the military cemetery in Tallin once "necessary preparations" had been made.

Russia has condemned Estonia's decision to remove the war memorial, which is currently being held in an unknown location.

The country's deputy foreign minister said the Estonian government's decision was an "insult" to the memory of those soldiers who fought against fascism in the second world war and accused the authorities of using "excessive" force against those who had demonstrated against the removal of the statue.

But Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet said that Moscow, which has called for an investigation into the death of the Russian citizen killed during Thursday's riots, was guilty of interfering in his country's domestic affairs and of making provocative statements in regard to the row.

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