Small But Passionate Turnout at Ukrainian Protest in Estonia
Despite the large size of the Ukrainian population in Estonia, the turnout of a demonstration held in Tallinn yesterday protesting a decision to break off efforts for closer Ukrainian-EU relations was much more modest than those observed in Kiev, where rallies are estimated to have reached the 100,000 mark.
Members from Estonia's third largest ethnic group, totaling 22,302 according to the 2011 census, only managed to gather around 20 people at a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Estonia, located in the capital's Kadriorg district, reported ETV.
After singing the Ukrainian national anthem, those present slipped a protest letter into the embassy's mailbox, calling on officials to uphold democratic initiatives.
A Ukrainian national and legal scholar at Tallinn University of Technology, Evhen Tsybulenko, said Ukraine is facing a decision of historic magnitude.
"The decision before Ukraine is not even about East or West, past or future. The question is whether the Ukrainian people exist at all and whether they can defend their European decision," he said.
"It's sad, but if Ukraine does not join the EU now, it never will. For that reason we must pressure the authorities with all of our might," he said.
Ukrainian exchange students studying international relations in Estonia were also among the protesters. They said an Association Agreement with the EU would have led to a change in Ukrainian geopolitical sentiments and that, more practically, the issue was one over closed vs open borders.
"It is really difficult for Ukrainians to get a visa to Europe and leaving the country is complicated. I, for example, did not get a Belgian visa last year. It was quite an ordeal. I think that signing an Association Agreement would give a thrust to other developments as well - to the visa policy and simplified travel to Europe and similar issues," said one student.