An order advising Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel to wear civilian attire in the vicinity of a World War Two monument in Tallinn, on what was Soviet victory day – May 9 – has been in place since 2008, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.
Media reports that EDF personnel from a signals unit based at a barracks on Filtri tee in Tallinn were instructed not to wear uniform when traveling to their unit last Sunday prompted EDF chief Lt. Gen. Martin Herem to say the order should never have been given.
The signals unit's commander, Lt. Col. Priit Averkin, had said that those conscripts arriving on the Sunday ahead of the day they were due in unit, i.e. the Monday, had been so instructed to avoid any risk of misuse of images of their presence near the "Bronze Soldier" monument on May 9.
While coronavirus regulations require public gatherings to not exceed 150 people, in socially distanced batches of 10, members of the public had attended the solemnities Sunday.
The "Bronze Soldier" statue is the focal point of the commemoration of the end of the war, and would in practice attract predominantly members of Estonia's Russian-speaking minority.
The statue itself was moved to its current location in 2007 while Kallas' party-mate Andrus Ansip was prime minister, in an event which sparked several nights' rioting and looting.
Lt. Averkin said that EDF troops' presence near the events could be misused for propaganda purposes.
While Lt. Gen. Herem said the regulation was appropriate in 2008, in today's climate and in light of current risk assessments, it was overdoing things.
The issue was raised both by the opposition Isamaa party, via former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu, and by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
Editor: Andrew Whyte