Estonia says Moscow is reneging on troop deal: Tallinn fears the Russians want to delay their departure

ESTONIA accused Russia yesterday of reneging on an agreement to withdraw its remaining troops from the Baltic state by 31 August. In a statement issued after two days of talks in Moscow, the Estonian foreign ministry said that Moscow had 'presented its positions in a more or less ultimatum-style' and that in so doing had set back the negotiations on Russian troop withdrawals by several months.

Juri Luik, the Estonian Foreign Minister, in Brussels for talks with Nato and European Union officials, nevertheless expressed hope that 'with the help of the international community' the Russian troops might yet be persuaded to leave according to the timetable that Moscow itself had proposed last year.

Of the three Baltic states, Estonia is the only one yet to have concluded an agreement with Moscow over the estimated 2,300 Russian troops who are still stationed on its territory.

Moscow has promised to pull out its remaining 12,000 forces from neighbouring Latvia by the end of August as part of a deal under which Russia will be able to carry on using the early-warning radar facility at Skrunda for four more years. The last Russian troops based in Lithuania were withdrawn at the end of last August.

According to sources close to the latest round of talks, the main sticking points remain Moscow's insistence that some 10,000 retired army officers currently living in Estonia be granted unqualified residency rights and state pensions, and that Tallinn come up with dollars 23m ( pounds 16m) to pay the cost of rehousing the officers who return home.

'It is absurd. When a war ends, the army goes home and that should be the end of it,' Mari-Ann Rikken, spokeswoman at the Estonian foreign ministry said. 'But we are being asked to carry on paying for the occupation.'

Russia first introduced the cash demand and residency rights conditions last month. In addition to fierce protests from Tallinn, the fresh demands were sharply criticised in the West, with several countries, including Britain, pointing out that in 1992 Russia agreed to withdraw its forces from the Baltic states 'unconditionally, speedily and in an orderly manner'.

Many Estonians fear that by moving the goal posts, Russia is aiming to extend the presence of its troops perhaps into next year or to exact as big a price as possible for agreeing to their earlier departure.

'The fact is that they just do not want to cut their connection with the Baltics,' said Mrs Rikken. 'To many Russians - and not just Vladimir Zhirinovsky (leader of the extreme nationalists) - we are not seen as independent countries, but simply as the Baltic region of Russia.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living