War in Ukraine could send 'cyber attacks' and 'refugees' to Estonia

Estonian and Ukrainian flags
Estonian and Ukrainian flags Source: Ministry of Defense

If Russia launches a further invasion of Ukraine, it could lead to cyber attacks and refugees fleeing to Estonia, Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense Kusti Salm told ERR.

"When war breaks out, no matter how long and bloody it is, war refugees will accompany it," Salm told ERR on Friday.

He said as Estonia is relatively close to Ukraine and there are almost 30,000 Ukrainian citizens living here, some people may move here to live with relatives.

"We must prepare so that they can come here and so that thousands could come here," Salm said, adding it is difficult to predict how many could arrive but potentially tens of thousands.

Salm said various analyses had estimated 7.5 million Ukrainians may be displaced by a new conflict.

Kusti Salm Autor/allikas: RKIK

The official said Estonia's legislation has changed over recent years to be able to accept refugees. "If this happens, it will probably be done quite easily," said Salm.

Poland has proved to be the most popular country for Ukrainians who have emigrated, with estimates showing 1 million now live in the country. While visiting Estonia earlier this week, the Polish foreign minister said Poland was again getting ready to accept refugees from Ukraine. 

Earlier this week, the government discussed Estonia's preparedness for an attack on Ukraine.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said: "As a society, we must be prepared for a surge of war refugees, a deepening energy crisis, cyber-attacks, as well as a wider economic and social impact."

She said the government has a plan to increase the state's readiness and ministers have mapped out shortcomings so further action can be taken.

The Minister of Culture Tiit Terik said the Ukrainian community in Estonia is strong and their representative organizations have been a trustworthy and positive partner to the state.

Ukrainians in Estonia

Data below shows the size of the Ukrainian population in Estonia since 2012.

In 2012 there were 23,285 Ukrainian citizens registered as living in Estonia and the number has increased by 4,000 since then. Data for 2021, shows there were 14,160 men and 13,094 women.  

There does not seem to have been a big increase in the number after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Instead, the population rose by 4,000 between 2019 and 2021.

Ukrainians are the third largest ethnic group in Estonia after Estonians and Russians.

The graph shows data for ethnic nationality.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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