Anger directed towards Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his regime following the large-scale military offensive launched against Ukraine last week has been felt 'to a certain extent' by the Russian-speaking populace in Tallinn, the city's mayor, Mihhail Kõlvart (Center), says.
Appearing on ETV magazine show "Terevisioon" Wednesday morning, Kõlvart said: "I think we all have emotions in common. We're thinking about what should be done in our country if something foreign came and started to decide on what we have to do or what government we should have."
"And this foreigner also kills. Unfortunately, such a situation has been reached, and we are living every day with these thoughts," Kõlvart added.
As to the question whether reports of atrocities committed by the Putin regime's forces in Ukraine could also affect attitudes towards the Russian-speaking populace here in Estonia, the mayor said that: "There is nothing to do about it; the word 'Russian' (Estonian: Vene - ed.) exists within the word 'Russia' (Estonian: Venemaa - ed.), but so too is it present in the terms 'Russian culture', 'Russian sport', etc. This anger towards Putin, unfortunately, to some extent extends to people beyond just terms, in other words to the Russian people as well. And the Russian people are aware of that. People are people."
Kõlvart added that although conflict always arouses emotions, it is important that we understand that, in our country, we are all Estonians.
"We have common values, but also fears. And we must support each other in these difficult times," the mayor told presenter Katrin Viirpalu.
Mayor: At least 200 people fleeing Ukraine have arrive in Tallinn so far
The mayor said that as of Wednesday, around 200 people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine have arrived in Tallinn. Many of these came by buses laid on at the Ukraine-Poland border, but many more have made their way independently and have friends and relatives here.
The overall figure of arrivals so far may be higher, Kõlvart said, hence the need for a single reception center, which city authorities are setting up.
"We are currently opening up a center where we offer people a 'one-stop shop' service so that they can have a consultation and any required first aid. Next, we will direct the people to hotels. Covid testing will be provided on-site, and psychological help will be provided. We would like all these activities to be in the one place,"
Credit assistance is also being provided to those people who apply for it, and accommodation is being provided in hotels in the capital, which the city government is paying for, the mayor said.
As to the near future, the mayor said that: "We hope that the situation will not deteriorate so much that we will not be able to maintain this level of service. However, we are also ready for scenarios where accommodation will be laid on in sports halls, schools and elsewhere."
The mayor also added that it is important for the state to determine the legal status of those people fleeing to Estonia and to outline the necessary services local and national government agencies must provide, as well as plan for the future.
"More project-based work is going on right now, where we will work with each group separately. The work has to be systematized for the time being, however, plus then there has to be a long-term system to help people. People stay here maybe for a longer period, some maybe a long - term concept is needed," Kõlvart went on.
Kõlvart added that this long-term concept would allow local governments to better design their services, but most importantly, would give people fleeing the war clarity in their perspective.
Editor: Andrew Whyte