AK: Those close to victims of ferry disaster want to know the truth

Memorial service at the 'Broken Line' monument in Tallinn.
Memorial service at the 'Broken Line' monument in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Relatives of the victims of the MS Estonia ferry disaster agree with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) that the truth about what happened in the 1994 sinking must be uncovered, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Monday evening.

Ratas and Reinsalu said at a press conference earlier on Monday that in connection with new findings of a four-meter hole in the wreck's hull, a new, underwater investigation must be carried out. The official investigation ended in 1998 and concluded that a sheared-off bow visor in stormy waters had cause the sinking, which claimed 852 lives. A 2006 report on that investigation headed by former prosecutor Margus Kurm made no mention of the hole, which was recently filmed by a German dive team; Kurm now claims that a submarine strike was responsible for both the hole and the sinking.

A joint statement made by the foreign ministers of Estonia, Finland and Sweden on Monday states that the verification of any new information presented in the documentary will be made "in accordance and full respect of the agreement between the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden, regarding the MS Estonia, signed in 1995. The fundamental idea with this agreement is to protect the MS Estonia, as a final place of rest for victims of the disaster, from any disturbing activities."

The countries will cooperate closely on the matter and Estonia as the flag state for the sunken MS Estonia will lead the investigation process.

On Monday, the traditional annual remembrance service was held at the 'Broken Line' monument at Rannavärav in Tallinn on the 26th anniversary of the disaster, to honor those who perished.

AK spoke to people at the service, including relatives and friends of those lost, who agreed that the real truth must be uncovered.

Tiia Tiido said: "If you have lost a daughter and two more family members, who you also considered children, you might understand it will never disappear from your soul. You will always remember the pain. The memory of those people deserves them going deep (into the investigation - ed.). The breaking of the gravesite peace is not justification enough, it left with the image that they are trying to hide something," Tiido said.

However, some attendees said the investigation must not only be led by the Estonian authorities.

Ilmi Kukk lost her son and daughter-in-law in the disaster 26 years ago. She is not pleased with the official version of what happened that night: "If Ratas and the others will investigate there will be no truth, only lies. The investigators must be international, correct and honest people. Let them do what they must, turn the ship upside-down if need be, let the truth come out," Kukk said.

Sweden's ambassador to Estonia, Mikael Eriksson, also brought a wreath to the monument on Monday. AK asked him how the Swedish government is viewing the new footage and information.

Eriksson said: "The stance is clear, there is still trust in the conclusions drawn by the investigative committee. But there is openness to new evidence."

The ferry sank on the night of September 28, 1994, sailing from Tallinn to Stockholm. The sinking is the largest maritime disaster in peacetime in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people from 17 countries, and second-largest peacetime maritime disaster, so far as European vessels go, since the Titanic.

The shipwreck was investigated by a joint committee formed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden between 1994 and 1997 and by a government commission headed by the Public Prosecutor's Office in 2005-2009. 

In 1995, Estonia, Finland and Sweden signed an agreement to protect the shipwreck, which prohibits diving to the wreck.

The disaster is commemorated by the "Broken Line" monument in central Tallinn, which replicates the vessel's bow. One arm of the monument points towards Sweden, the other towards Finland, the two nations, along with Estonia, who lost the most people.

The 'Broken Line' monument in Tallinn. Source: Jan Pohunek/Creative Commons


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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