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Russia accused of 'rewriting history' to justify occupation of Baltic states

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both condemned Russia's statements
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both condemned Russia's statements   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
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Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the United States have accused Russia of seeking to “rewrite history” to justify the annexation of the Baltic states in 1940.

Estonia summoned Russia’s ambassador on Thursday to denounce “a series of fake posts” published on official social media accounts.

“Russia is trying to give the impression that legitimacy can be born at the threat of a weapon, repression by mutual agreement - this is extremely cynical,” said Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu.

The joint statement marks the 80th anniversary of the Welles Declaration, in which the US outlined its “non-recognition policy” of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries.

The short document accused the USSR of “devious” and “predatory” actions against their smaller neighbours.

Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Linas Linkevicius

In the summer of 1940 Soviet forces occupied the Baltic states, after the USSR signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939.

The agreement carved Europe into "spheres of influence", assigning the Baltic nations to the USSR.

Russia has since suggested the annexation “was not unilateral... but was carried out by mutual agreement”.

They have accused “Baltic elites” of deliberately misrepresenting the facts to advance an anti-Russian agenda.

In a recent article, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Soviets had acted “with the consent of the elected authorities”.

In the years after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO and the European Union.

Thursday’s statement reaffirmed the importance of transatlantic ties and America's opposition to Russian actions in Ukraine.

“The principles of the Welles Declaration were rightly invoked again on July 25, 2018, when the United States confirmed its refusal to accept the attempted annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.”

The EU has previously condemned Russia for attempting "to distort history” during the Second World War.

In December, President Putin had suggested Poland shared responsibility with Nazi Germany, a claim rejected by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as “historical lies”.

Poland was also supported in the dispute by Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius.

"We will not let the Kremlin manipulate history so easily and spread lies," Linkevičius said after meeting with his Polish counterpart in January.