Riigikogu no-fly zone resolution intended to send message to other states

A Riigikogu sitting in progress.
A Riigikogu sitting in progress. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Riigikogu's resolution calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which passed at the chamber on Monday, is primarily political in nature, and is intended to send a message to other countries, its framers say.

The resolution was the first of its kind from any country, since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

Security expert Rainer Saks says that while in the normal diplomatic run of things it would not have been sensible to get the jump on other countries by a national legislature making such a call, these were not normal times.

Saks said: "In this case, it is a very extreme situation, where one country, namely the Russian Federation in Ukraine, is deliberately attacking human settlements and dwellings, with the aim of deliberately causing the death of civilians, so in this situation it is very difficult to start making any allegations [regarding Estonia acting unilaterally]."

Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says the appeal is addressed to those countries that have the ability to establish a no-fly zone – a capacity which Estonia alone does not have.

He said: "Unfortunately, Estonia does not have this capability. When a no-fly zone has been established, it is also necessary to monitor the no-fly zone to ensure it is not violated. It is of little use alone if it is stated as a declaration."

As a minister, Laanet does not sit in the Riigikogu, which passed by a large majority the statement calling for the no-fly zone – a statement which was a first from any state legislature.

Former defense minister and Isamaa MP Urmas Reinsalu said that it is important both to support Ukraine and to keep the no-fly zone issue on the table in the west, particularly given the situation in the conflict may change.

Reinsalu said: "Naturally [the statement] doesn't have legal implications, but it does have political implications."

"I've already seen Senator Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.) state in the American media he doesn't support the no-fly zone at present, but he would support one if Putin used chemical weapons," Reinsalu went on.

Laanet said that national positions have changed rapidly through the three-week long war in Ukraine, even within a 24-hour period.

"As of today, we cannot say one way or the other that countries would immediately rush to establish a no-fly zone, as a result of this [Riigikogu] no-fly zone proposal," Laanet said.

Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas (Center), whose signature was at the bottom of the address, confirmed the move was intended to be political.

He said: "Estonia is not going to impose a no-fly zone, everyone understands that; it is a clear political call to both the allies and the UN. It is a political message."

Ukraine's leader Volodymr Zelenskyy has been consistently calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over his country.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, and so far the West's response has been to decline such a move, in the fears that it might escalate the conflict and make things worse for the people of Ukraine, also taking into consideration that Russia is a nuclear power.

The idea of a part-no-fly zone over humanitarian corridors linking Ukrainian cities to the EU border has also been floated.

The U.S., the U.K. and France established no-fly zones over the northernmost and southernmost portions of Iraq, primarily to protect ethnic Kurds and Shiia Muslims respectively from the Saddam Hussein regime, between 1991 and 2003, though the UN's Secretary General at the time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, reportedly in a later interview referred to the zones' establishment as illegal.

The Riigikogu passed the resolution calling for the no-fly zone on Monday, with 90 votes in favor at the 101-seat chamber.

The resolution also called for the fast-tracked accession of Ukraine to full EU membership, and a road-map for its NATO membership.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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