May 9 Victory Day event in Tallinn to go ahead

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The Bronze Soldier statue on May 9 2020, when a mass gathering marking the day was canceled due to COVID-19 considerations. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

A ceremony marking the end of World War Two is to go ahead on May 9 at a central Tallinn cemetery. The easing of coronavirus restrictions a few days before means that outdoor public gatherings can take place, with limitations on numbers.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) told ERR this week that the necessary preliminaries, including liaison with the event's organizer, were in place.

Kaido Saarnit, chief of the PPA's city center unit, told ERR that: "ThePPA has registered a procession to celebrate Victory Day, Monday, May 9. We have communicated with the event organizer and provided the necessary information, so that he can conduct the event safely."

This time last year, both the PPA and Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart had appealed to the public not to attend the event, which takes place in the vicinity of a World War Two memorial statue, known as the Bronze Soldier, subject of a flashpoint in 2007 when it was relocated from Tõnismägi in central Tallinn, to its current location.

In the event, last year's procession was canceled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The timing this year is such that, since from May 3 public outdoor gatherings of up to 150 people are permissible, the event can go ahead. Attendees must be dispersed into separated cohorts of no more than 10 people, under the regulations.

Victory Day, marking the end of World War Two, falls on May 9 in Russia and is counted as same by the predominantly Russian-speaking citizens and residents of Estonia, rather than May 8 in most western countries.

The PPA will be liaising with the Health Board (Terviseamet), Tallinn City Government, the city government's own Municipal Police (Mupo) and other authorities, ERR reports, primarily in respect of coronavirus restrictions.

Legislation currently on the table will clarify the role the PPA plays in monitoring compliance with COVID-19 regulations during larger-scale events, and its interface with other bodies, particularly the Health Board, whose personnel are also empowered to patrol events.

Kaido Saarnits said that: "It is not forbidden to visit cemeteries and memorials on May 9, but it is wise to keep your distance from other people and make your move quickly without gathering for a long time. You must definitely follow the current restrictions," he said.

The PPA say they have communicated with the organization behind the event, the "Immortal Regiment" (Russian: Bessmertniy Polk)  , and registered the public gathering from the afternoon of May 8 to late evening on May 9.

A procession will start nearby at the beginning of the event, and wend its way to the cemetery in question.

Andrei Goncharov is cited as organizer of this year's event, as he was for last year's abortive one.

An Immortal Regiment member was detained last month on suspicion of espionage on behalf of the Russian Federation.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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