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More than 70 hurt, hundreds detained in Estonia

world Updated: Apr 28, 2007 09:30 IST

AFP
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Seventy-four people were injured, including nine police officers, and some 600 detained in a second night of rioting in Estonia after a controversial Soviet war memorial was moved from Tallinn, police said on Saturday.

Rioting was also reported for the first time outside the capital, in the town of Johvi, 165 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Tallinn.
"A few hundred people are on the move in the town, smashing the windows of buildings and cars," police said in a statement issued late on Friday.

No details were available on whether anyone was injured or detained in the unrest in Johvi.

Riot police used water cannon, rubber batons and sound devices to disperse crowds of vandals who smashed the windows of the Art Academy in central Tallinn and looted a liquor store nearby.

Roving gangs also entered the National Theater, located near a park in the city centre, but it was unclear if it has been looted.

Police lines attempted to keep aggressive youth groups apart, pushing them out of the central area.

Groups of youths shouted "Rossiya! Rossiya!" (Russia in Russian) and waved Russian flags.

Rioting had first erupted overnight on Thursday when police tried to prevent a small group of youths from breaking through a security cordon set up around a towering bronze figure of a Red Army soldier ahead of the statue's removal.

A 20-year-old died after being stabbed during the first night of violence and 300 were detained in what officials have called the worst unrest to rock Tallinn since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The statue was moved to a secret location in the early hours of Friday, in a bid to prevent further unrest.

Concrete bollards were set up on the road leading to the parliament building after around 60 youngsters demonstrated outside, shouting "Fascists" in Russian and calling on the prime minister to come out.

The last time the Estonian parliament was barricaded was in 1991, when Soviet tanks were advancing towards Tallinn to crush the independence drive of the Baltic state.

A monument to Estonian writer Anton Hansen Tammsaare, located in a park in central Tallinn, was daubed in white paint in Cyrillic letters on Friday, prompting anger from Estonian youths.

Police managed to keep the Estonian and Russian groups apart at the vandalised monument. The police responded more quickly and with greater force when violence erupted shortly before midnight on Friday and was quelled after a few hours.

Many of the hundreds detained were Russian-speakers in their teens, and many were drunk, police said, adding that they will be released to their parents.