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Estonia Sets Up Pro-Secession Home Guard : Baltics: Unarmed volunteers are to protect buildings against pro-Moscow militants.

From Reuters

Thousands of Estonians were sworn in as members of a pro-independence home guard force Sunday on the eve of strikes threatened by pro-Moscow loyalists in the Baltic republic.

About 3,500 recruits of all ages, according to officials, lined up in columns wearing blue arm bands marked Kodu Kaitse (Home Guard) and swore an oath of allegiance to their homeland at a ceremony in the capital of Tallinn’s Town Hall Square.

“The Estonian home guard is a milestone in our peaceful struggle for freedom,” Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar told recruits.

Savisaar said the unarmed force will help police guard public buildings to prevent a repetition of an attempt last Tuesday by pro-Moscow militants to storm the republic’s Parliament. The militants were turned back.

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“It should guarantee that we can continue our struggle for freedom whatever hostile acts are carried out against us,” Savisaar said as a band played patriotic Estonian music. “We shall not retreat,” he declared.

Formation of the home guard, the first of its kind in the Soviet Union, appears certain to anger the Kremlin, which has denounced Estonia’s declaration of independence, although the republic envisions a gradual approach to such independence.

Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Saturday declared void an Estonian law passed last week outlining the rights of Estonian residents and the role of various institutions.

Establishment of a home guard force is also certain to further sour relations between the independence-minded government and ethnic Russian hard-liners who plan to stage anti-independence strikes today.

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