Diplomatic options relating to Ukrainian security are moving in ever-decreasing circles, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Monday, making the strong recommendation that Estonian citizens leave the country a valid one.
"The government received an overview of the tense situation and various intelligence reports," Kallas told ERR Monday, after a morning cabinet meeting she had convened.
"From the perspective of diplomacy, things are becoming increasingly narrow. We see no sign of easing tensions, either on the military front or on the popular front," Kallas continued. "However, in any case, we must be prepared for a range of situations. We are certainly ready to provide consular assistance, our citizens have been informed and we are also ready to help those Estonian citizens who are in Ukraine."
"Our focus is to support Ukraine, to help its people if necessary and to prepare for the possible consequences of the conflict in Ukraine in Estonia," Kallas told ERR.
"This threat, as expressed by various intelligence organizations, and the knowledge of it, means that countries are primarily responsible for their own citizens; if there is a real warning that the threat level may rise, that warning must also be passed on to citizens. This is the responsibility of each country for its citizens," Kallas continued.
While the Estonian embassy in Kyiv will continue to function, Kallas said, maintaining an indomitable stance here may be inappropriate, she said, responding to remarks made by Reform MEP Urmas Paet.
"I would suggest that neither Urmas Paet nor ICDS researcher [Kalev Stoicescu] is responsible for human lives or for the citizens who are there," Kallas said.
"I still have to put my people first ahead of the Ukrainian economy," she added.
Paet, a former foreign minister, had said democratic states closing or significantly scaling down their diplomatic missions in Ukraine would be the wrong move, while Stoicescu, research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), argued that the Ukrainian people needed to feel that the West was with them.
"Ultimately, only Putin, in whose head these decisions are being made, knows whether or not war will come," the prime minister continued.
Kallas added that all efforts including those from the U.S. are being made with the aim of aiding Ukraine and averting war, while dialogue, such as that during Reform MP and Riigikogu foreign affairs committee Marko Mihkelson's visit to Moscow a week ago, was part and parcel of those efforts.
Foreign minister: Kyiv embassy to continue functioning, provision of consular assistance may be hampered by worsening situation
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said that Estonia's embassy in Kyiv will continue working and providing assistance, though this may change if the situation deteriorates, ERR reports.
Liimets said: "While the situation in Ukraine is tense, the Estonian Embassy in Kyiv will certainly continue its work and can offer assistance to the people of Estonia to leave Ukraine; however, it is important to stress that should the situation become more serious, then, despite the great capacity of our embassy, the provision of necessary assistance for reasons beyond our control may be significantly hampered."
Those Estonians still in Ukraine should clearly consider their travel plans and find ways to exit the country, while the embassy will continues functioning, she said.
Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) said that Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel providing training would not be withdrawn from Ukraine, as things stand, even as tensions may increase in the region.
Laanet said: "Estonia is closely monitoring developments in conjunction with the allies and the allied support for our region is assured."
Western countries who have withdrawn diplomatic staff and their families, as well as issuing strong recommendations that all citizens leave Ukraine as soon as possible, include the U.S., the U.K., Finland, Latvia, Norway, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Small numbers of British military personnel involved in training Ukraine's military were reportedly withdrawn at the weekend, on the grounds that Russia could attack "at no notice".
Around 120,000 Russian Federation troops are estimated to be massed on Russia's border with Ukraine, in addition to those taking part in a military exercise in Belarus, which also borders Ukraine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte