*CONDEMNING VIOLENCE IN ESTONIA AND ATTACKS ON ESTONIA'S EMBASSIES IN 2007 -- (House of Representatives - June 05, 2007)
Archived Articles 07 Jun 2007  EWR
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Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H . Res . 397 ) condemning violence in Estonia and attacks on Estonia's embassies in 2007, and expressing solidarity with the Government and the people of Estonia, as amended.

The Clerk read the title of the resolution.

The text of the resolution is as follows:

H . Res . 397

Whereas on April 27, 2007, a crowd of more than 1,000 pro-Russian demonstrators gathered in Tallinn and riots broke out across the city;

Whereas more than 153 people were injured as a result of the pro-Russian riots, and one died as a result of stabbing by another rioter;

Whereas several stores in Tallinn and surrounding villages were looted as a result of the riots, and a statue of an Estonian general was set on fire;

Whereas since April 27, 2007, the Government of Estonia has reported several cyber-attacks on its official lines of communication, including those of the Office of the President;

Whereas on April 28, 2007, and in days following, the Embassy of Estonia in Moscow was surrounded by angry protesters who demanded the resignation of the Government of Estonia, tore down the flag of Estonia from the Embassy building, and subjected Embassy officials inside the building to violence and vandalism;

Whereas on April 30, 2007, a delegation of the State Duma of the Russian Federation visited Estonia and issued an official statement at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Estonia that ``the government of Estonia must step down'';

Whereas on May 2, 2007, the Ambassador of Estonia to the Russian Federation was physically attacked by protesters and members of youth groups during an official press conference;

Whereas on May 2, 2007, the Swedish Ambassador to the Russian Federation was attacked as he left the Embassy of Estonia in Moscow, and his car was damaged by a crowd, resulting in a formal protest to the Russian Federation by the Swedish Foreign Ministry;

Whereas the Government of Estonia has reported other coordinated attacks against Estonian embassies in Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Riga, Prague, Kiev, and Minsk, and the Estonian Consulate in St. Petersburg;

Whereas on May 2, 2007, Prime Minister of Estonia Andrus Ansip stated that a ``sovereign state is under a heavy attack'' and that the events constitute ``a well-coordinated and flagrant intervention with the internal affairs of Estonia'';

Whereas on May 2, 2007, the public prosecutor's office of Estonia initiated an investigation into the cyber-attacks against Internet servers in Estonia and requested cooperation from the Russian Federation to identify the source of the attacks;

Whereas on May 2, 2007, the European Commission expressed its solidarity with Estonia and urged Russia to respect its obligations to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, done at Vienna April 18, 1961, and end the blockade of the Embassy of Estonia in Moscow; and

Whereas the Embassy of Estonia in Russia has been closed since April 27, 2007, and Estonia has suspended consular services to Moscow because conditions remain unsafe for Embassy officials: Now, therefore, be it

/ Resolved,/ //That the House of Representatives--

(1) expresses its strong support for Estonia as a sovereign state and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as it deals with matters internal to its country;

(2) condemns recent acts of violence, vandalism, and looting that have taken place in Estonia;

(3) condemns the attacks and threats against Estonia's embassies and officials in Russia and other countries;

(4) urges all activists involved to express their views peacefully and reject violence;

(5) honors the sacrifice of all those, including soldiers of the Red Army, that gave their lives in the fight to defeat Nazism;

(6) condemns any and all efforts to callously exploit the memory of the victims of the Second World War for political gain;

(7) supports the efforts of the Government of Estonia to initiate a dialogue with appropriate levels of the Government of the Russian Federation to resolve the crisis peacefully and to sustain cooperation between their two sovereign, independent states; and

(8) urges the governments of all countries--

(A) to condemn the violence that has occurred in Estonia, Moscow, and elsewhere in 2007 and to urge all parties to express their views peacefully;

(B) to assist the Government of Estonia in its investigation into the source of cyber-attacks; and

(C) to fulfill their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, done at Vienna April 18, 1961.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from California (Mr. /Lantos/) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. /Ros-Lehtinen/) each will control 20 minutes.

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The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the resolution under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the only Member in the history of Congress who survived the Holocaust and was liberated by the Russian Army. I was therefore opposed to the decision and continue to remain opposed to the decision by the government of Estonia to move a memorial honoring Russian soldiers for their historic sacrifice during World War II in liberating Estonia and many other parts of Europe from Hitler's domination. What came afterward, however, is an entirely different issue.

On April 27, over 1,000 pro-Russian demonstrators gathered in Tallinn, the beautiful small capital of Estonia. That group soon got out of control. Riots broke out across the city. Finally, over 150 people were injured. One person died.

The next day, the Embassy of Estonia in Moscow was surrounded by angry, pro-Russian demonstrators who demanded the resignation of the government of Estonia. The Estonian ambassador was physically attacked by demonstrators during an official press conference. Even the Swedish ambassador to Russia was assaulted when he left the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.

Since the initial riots in Tallinn, the Estonian government has reported other coordinated attacks against its Embassies in Helsinki, Finland; Oslo, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Riga; Prague and Kiev.

The Estonian government, with the assistance of NATO, has also been investigating cyber attacks against the government's Web site, as well as against the computer systems of political parties, banks, and media organizations in Estonia. Cyber attacks in this day and age, Mr. Speaker, can be devastating. The Estonian government estimates that these attacks cost the targets tens of millions of Euros, a significant sum for a small country like Estonia.

These incidents of violence have been condemned by a host of European institutions. The European Commission has expressed its solidarity with Estonia and urged Russia to respect its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. NATO has issued a similar statement condemning the violence.

So, today, we in Congress join our friends in Europe in expressing our strong disapproval of the unjustified and unacceptable Russian attacks against Estonia, and we express our strong solidarity with the people and government of the great democratic nation of Estonia.

I urge all of my colleagues to support this all-important measure.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I also rise in strong support of this resolution authored by our good friend, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. /Shimkus/), which condemns the violence within Estonia, condemns the attacks on Estonia's Embassy in Russia that have taken place recently, and which expresses our solidarity with the government and the people of Estonia in the face of such violence and intimidation.

As the chairman has pointed out, the April 27 relocation by the Estonian government of a Soviet-era statue and memorial, located in the capital, led some ethnic Russians within Estonia and some Russians in Russia itself to undertake violent demonstrations and threatening intimidation. These events presented the rest of the world with the worrisome prospect that Estonia and other countries once held captive by the former Soviet regime would continue to be subjected to organized, threatening behavior by their neighbor, Russia.

Additionally troublesome is the possibility that such behavior might be supported by officials at high levels within the Russian government.

It is the view of the most impartial observers that in the days that followed the memorial's relocation, the Russian government quite obviously failed to adequately protect the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, which was threatened for some time by a mob.

In Estonia itself, government, commercial and media Web sites observed a series of suspicious and devastating cyber attacks, reportedly originating from within Russia in what appeared to be a very organized manner.


[Time: 15:40]

All of that followed very violent demonstrations mounted by some ethnic Russians within Estonia, demonstrations that required significant engagement by the police to halt.

Mr. Speaker, since regaining their independence with the fall of the Soviet regime, Estonia, as well as the other Baltic States, have worked hard to overcome the serious impact of that decades-long occupation, a period in which the native population in Estonia came close to becoming a minority, a minority in their own land, due to the actions of the Soviet government.

Many Baltic citizens were deemed to be threats to that occupation and they were shipped off to Siberia, some never to be seen again, while ethnic Russians were assigned by the regime to settle in the Baltic States.

But with renewed independence, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have had the opportunity to again take control of their future.

To their credit, they have worked with the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union to find ways to address the presence of those who had been settled on their territories during the Soviet era, finding procedures to grant proper citizenship that, while tough in some cases, nevertheless provided a means for the large ethnic Russian minorities to participate in the civic life of those states whose independence was no longer questioned.

The European Union and the NATO alliance recognized the efforts by these Baltic States to constructively address the challenges and to implement general democratic and free market reforms.

That is why Estonia and other Baltic States are today members of both the European Union and NATO, and why those organizations have stood by Estonia in the face of the disproportionate reaction to the recent relocation of the memorial, that reaction appearing to have had its roots in Moscow.

Mr. Speaker, the Baltic States have more than earned their independence through decades of repression and suffering under a Communist regime.

It is important that through the adoption of this resolution before us today, authored by Mr. /Shimkus/ of Illinois, we make it clear that we stand in support of Estonia and its independence in the face of threats and intimidation.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to join us in support of Mr. /Shimkus/' resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. /Shimkus/), the author of the resolution.

(Mr. SHIMKUS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman /Lantos/ and Ranking Member /Ros-Lehtinen/ for your time and the speedy movement of this resolution, and it's timely with the President's trip to Europe.

A few things of note. I continue to follow, as the chairman knows, the occurrences in the former captive nations, the European Union countries, and mostly the Baltic countries, and it seems like we can never get to forgiveness. It seems like countries always go back to another point in time to address their grievances.

I've been on the floor numerous times to talk about Molotov-Ribbentrop, and we've debated that and we've voted on that resolution. We forget about Roosevelt's land lease deal that was very helpful to the Soviet Union at that time, and as the chairman's correct, we also forget about the sacrifices made by the Soviet Union in winning World War II, especially on the Eastern

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front. So his concerns are well-founded and very much appreciated by this Member.

There was great hope after the fall of the Wall, as I served on the German border during the Cold War era, that this would bring a new time for Europe, a time of prosperity and peace, the rule of law, democratic institutions. And that's why we continue to be frustrated by the current involvement, because when there is peace and stability and the rule of law, the people prosper, people on both sides of the boundary lines. In this case the Estonians and across the border, the Russians, they would both benefit from peaceful relations and coexistence.

But we just can't get there yet, and so that's why I'm very appreciative of bringing this resolution because the decision by the Estonian government to move the memorial, as the chairman said, probably not proper in his estimation, I know that it can be said that it was done with dignity, with consultation and moved to a place in a military cemetery and given all the respects offered.

But having said that, what a free and independent country, a decision it can make, doesn't justify the result. Again, that's why going back to the comments of, can't we just forgive and can't we just move forward, the great nations do not have to bully small neighbors. Great nations can stand side by side with their smaller allies and their neighbors to help them develop and grow.

And what we see from the Russian Federation is just the opposite. We see them continually harass and bully their neighbors. Their neighbors have made choices that we expect free and democratic countries to be able to make, and just because the Russian Federation are unhappy with that it does not give them the right to bypass the rule of international law.

So this issue, as has been discussed earlier, the result of the movement of the statue led to riots within Estonia by ethnic Russians and also problems in the capital of Moscow, and as Ranking Member /Ileana Ros-Lehtinen/ said, any impartial observer would say that there was a move by the government to specifically not stop them, and there is great evidence that they helped encourage this ability to be thugs and bullies to ambassadors and government representatives of free and democratic countries.

That's why I'm very thankful that the committee seemed right to bring this resolution speedily to the floor. As cochair of the House Baltic Caucus, I've been heavily involved for 10 years with NATO expansion, the EU expansion and the energy disputes.

Estonia is one of our closest allies and friends in Europe. They have been an integral part in our war on terror in having troops in Afghanistan.

That is why House Resolution 397 is so important. The U.S. House of Representatives must stand with our Estonian friends and refuse to let them be bullied by the Russian government. The intimidation that President Putin is using against our allies in Eastern Europe is simply unacceptable.

Again, I'd like to thank the chairman for bringing this to the floor.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of our time.

Mr. LANTOS. Before yielding back our time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to call the attention of all of my colleagues to an upcoming open joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma on June 21. This will be the first time in history that the Foreign Affairs Committees of these two parliaments will have met in joint session.


[Time: 15:50]

I very much hope, and I know my distinguished ranking member, /Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,/ joins me in hoping, that we will have a meaningful and helpful dialogue with our Russian colleagues so that the current state of tension between Russia and the United States could somehow be diminished.

We had high hopes when the Soviet Union collapsed over 15 years ago, but many recent statements by Mr. Putin and many actions by Russia, including the action that we have just heard described against the free and democratic Republic of Estonia, fill us with a great deal of concern and anxiety.

I urge all of my colleagues to attend this joint session of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee in a few weeks in our hope that before the President and Mr. Putin meet in Kennebunkport we might have a legislative opportunity of exploring candidly all of the issues that, at the moment, seem to divide us.

* [Begin Insert]

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of H.R. 397, which condemns violence in Estonia and attacks on that country's embassies in 2007. It also expresses solidarity with the government and the people of Estonia.

This past April 27, a crowd of more than 1,000 pro-Russian demonstrators gathered in Tallin, the capital city of Estonia. The gathering became unruly and riots broke out across the city. In the end, over 150 people were injured and one person died from stab wounds.

On May 2, the Estonian Ambassador was physically attacked by protesters during an official press conference. That same day, the Swedish Ambassador to Russia was assaulted when he left the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.

Since the initial riots in Tallin, this wave of violence continued, and the Estonian Government has reported other coordinated attacks against its embassies in Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Riga, Prague, and Kiev, among other cities. The Estonian Government, with the assistance of NATO, has been investigating cyber attacks against the government's website, as well as against the computer systems of political parties, banks, and media organizations. The Estonian Government estimates that these attacks have cost the targets tens of millions of euros.

Estonia is a well respected member of NATO and the European Union. These incidents of violence have been condemned by a host of European institutions. The European Commission and NATO have expressed their solidarity with Estonia and urged Russia to respect its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Mr. Speaker, it is appropriate that this House also express its disapproval of the unjustified attacks against Estonia. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution, which denounces violence in Estonia and attacks against its embassies, while also expressing solidarity with the government and people of the great nation of Estonia.

* [End Insert]

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation, and I yield back the balance of our time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. /Lantos/) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, H . Res . 397 , as amended.

The question was taken.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this question will be postponed.
 
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