TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The three Baltic countries will "scientifically" calculate the losses caused by nearly five decades of Soviet occupation so that they can seek compensation from Russia.
Estonian Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu said Friday that the claim by his country, Latvia and Lithuania would be legally justified as Russia has declared itself to be the successor of the Soviet Union after its fall in 1991.
The Baltic countries have talked about compensation before but never presented a sum. Reinsalu stressed in a statement that the three nations would not back down on their demands from Russia.
Reinsalu and his colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania on Thursday signed a joint declaration, saying they would assess the damage "in a scientifically justified manner."
"It is time to arrange the relationship with the past," the declaration said. "During the years of (Soviet) occupation the three Baltic states were exploited for political and economic needs of the occupying regime. As a result they have suffered enormous demographic and socio-economic losses."
The Baltic countries were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 by dictator Josef Stalin. After three years under Nazi occupation, they were retaken by the Soviets in 1944, remaining under Moscow's rule until independence in 1991.
Russia has repeatedly rejected all calls by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for damage compensation for the Soviet rule.
Mikhail Fedotov, the chairman of Russia's Human Rights Council — an advisory panel assisting President Vladimir Putin — told news agency Interfax that the claim has "no international legal prospects" as Russia can also be considered a victim of the totalitarian Soviet regime.
Demanding compensation from Russia "is the same as if the former inmates of Auschwitz would demand compensation from the former inmates of Buchenwald," Fedotov was quoted as saying to Interfax, referring to two Nazi concentration camps.