Copenhagen, Denmark — Estonia’s government said on Tuesday it has decided to remove a Soviet-era monument from public spaces in an eastern border town in the Russian-speaking part of the Baltic country, with the prime minister saying the reason for the dismantling is that it poses a risk. constitutes for the public order.
“No one wants to see our militant and hostile neighbor fuel tensions in our home,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, adding that the move came after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We will not give Russia the opportunity to use the past to disrupt the peace in Estonia.”
Kallas said they didn’t want to give Russia the chance to “open old wounds”.
Outside Narva – Estonia’s third-largest city with a large Russian-speaking population – a replica T-34 tank with a red Soviet star stands atop a memorial to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Estonia of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The replica of the Soviet tank will be taken to the Estonian War Museum in Viimsi, a town north of the capital Tallinn, Estonian broadcaster ERR said.
The city, whose 57,500 residents mainly speak Russian, is located on the border with Russia, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) east of Tallinn, and is separated from the Russian city of Ivangorod by the Narva River.
The entire monument was dismantled on Tuesday and “the operation will be carried out in a dignified manner. For example, the flowers and candles placed at the monuments will be taken to a cemetery and not thrown in the trash”, Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said Tuesday, according to the Baltic News Service. Estonian broadcaster ERR said decommissioning is underway.
Photos on the ERR website showed Estonian military and heavy machinery moving the monument after flowers and candles were removed from the site.
The communal grave of World War II victims in Narva will be given a neutral grave marker and will remain a worthy place to remember them, Kallas said.
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in a government statement that Russia “wanted to use the memorials commemorating the criminal occupation regime to fuel tensions in Estonian society”.
On August 15, the Narva City Council decided that the monument should be removed and soon after, a crowd gathered around the monument to protest the plan.
Given the current situation, ensuring public order is complicated for the authorities of the city of Narva,” Laanemets said in the same statement, calling it a “large and complex problem.”
A total of seven Soviet-era monuments in Narva would also be removed, the government said on Tuesday.
Estonia, which shares a border of nearly 300 kilometers (180 miles) with Russia, has taken a tough stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Estonia decided to ban people from neighboring Russia on tourist visas from entering the northernmost Baltic country as a result of the war in Ukraine. The European Union, of which Estonia is a member, has already banned air travel from Russia after Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24. But Russians can still travel overland to Estonia and apparently flee to other European destinations.
Since independence in 1991, the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million inhabitants has been embroiled in disputes over the status of Russians, most of whom came to Estonia during the 50 years of Soviet rule.
In 2007, the move of the so-called Bronze Statue of Tallinn, another Soviet war memorial, from a city park sparked days of rioting. One person died and more than 1,000 arrests were made, with Russian-speaking Estonians claiming that the removal of the monument erased their history. The statue was later moved to a military cemetery.
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