World

Estonia removes Soviet-era monument, citing public order

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – The Estonian government on Tuesday said it had decided to remove a Soviet-era monument from public space in an eastern border town located in the Russian-speaking part of the Baltic country, with the prime minister saying the The reason for dismantling is that it poses a risk to the public. order.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said: “No one wants to see our militants and hostile neighbors causing tension in our homes,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, adding that the move came after Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We will not give Russia the opportunity to use the past to disturb the peace in Estonia.”

Kallas says they don’t want to give Russia a chance to “tear old wounds.”

Outside Narva – Estonia’s third largest town with a large Russian-speaking population – a replica of a T-34 tank with a red Soviet star sits atop a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died liberated Estonia from 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 town of 57,500 mainly Russian-speaking inhabitants, lies on the border with Russia about 210 km (130 mi) east of Tallinn and is separated by the Russian town of Ivangorod by the Narva River.

The entire monument was dismantled on Tuesday and “activities will be carried out in a dignified manner, such as flowers and candles placed at the memorials will be taken to the cemetery, not thrown in the trash”. Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said on Tuesday, according to Baltic News Service. Estonian broadcaster ERR said dismantling was underway.

Photos posted on the ERR website show Estonian troops and heavy machinery moving the monument after flowers and candles were removed from the site.

The joint grave of World War II victims in Narva will be marked as neutral and it will remain a dignified site in their memory, Kallas said.

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in a government statement that Russia “wants to use memorials commemorating the occupying criminal regime to fuel tensions in Estonian society.”

On August 15, the town council in Narva decided to move the monument and soon a crowd gathered around the memorial to protest the plan.

Considering the current situation, ensuring public order is complicated for the Narva city government,” Laanemets said in the same statement, calling it “a big and complex issue.” “

A total of seven Soviet-era monuments in Narva will also be removed, the government said on Tuesday.

Estonia, which shares a nearly 300-kilometer (180-mile) border with Russia, has taken a tough stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Estonia decided to ban people from neighboring Russia with 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, banned air travel from Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. But Russians can still travel by land to Estonia and seem to go. flights to other European destinations.

Since independence in 1991, the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million people has been embroiled in disputes over the status of Russians, most of whom came to Estonia during 50 years of Soviet rule. .

In 2007, the removal of the so-called Bronze Statue of Tallinn, another Soviet war memorial, from a city park led to several days of riots. One person has died and more than 1,000 arrests have been made, with Russian-speaking Estonians claiming the removal of the memorial has erased their history. The statue was later moved to a military cemetery.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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