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Estonia: Russia Criticizes Trial of Ex-Soviet Official

Moscow, 20 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has again criticized Estonia for going forward with the trial of an ex-Soviet police official charged with crimes against humanity. Vladimir Penart, a former Soviet Interior Ministry official, is due to stand trial on 22 August for hunting down and executing three Estonian Forest Brothers resistance fighters. Forest Brothers withdrew to Estonia's forests in the 1950s to resist Soviet rule.

Boris Malakhov, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that the trial is based on a "subjective and politicized evaluation of events in Estonia during World War II and the postwar period." He said Russia will extend every possible assistance to Penart "and others subject to persecution in Estonia."

During the Soviet era, thousands of Estonians fled to the forests to escape arrest or take up arms. Many were either killed or deported to Siberia. More than a dozen trials have been held so far against people who took part in Soviet-era atrocities in the Baltic state.