Head of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Elmar Vaher says he is hoping for legislative amendments which would give his authority a clearer legal basis for banning the display of symbols expressly in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a little over a month before the annual May 9 'Victory Day' procession takes place.
Appearing on ETV morning magazine show "Terevisioon" on Monday, Vaher said: "May 9 is a month away, but we are definitely prepared to be out there on the day, with ample resources, in order to ensure the rule of law and of a just state."
While the annual, organized procession to the "Bronze Soldier" statue, located in a military cemetery in central Tallinn, has been cancelled, members of the public in any case congregating at the site and bearing Soviet-era military symbols, or the orange-black Ribbon of St. George, would from the PPA's perspective be acting reprehensibly in the current situation, Vaher said.
Being able to commemorate the fallen of World War Two (which in the Russian Federation is marked one day after VE Day) should not be forbidden, Vaher added, but must be done discreetly. "By all means come, place wreaths, bow your head, remember the dead," he wen ton.
"However, all these public meetings and major events which show clear support for the Putin regime are not dignified, and we are certainly ready to curb such activities on May 9. We will be out in force, since the situation is not the same as before," he went on.
When pressed on where to draw the line, Vaher said that certainly arriving in the vicinity of the "Bronze Soldier" wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Vladimir Putin's physiognomy, for instance, or with an orange-black ribbon attached to a handbag, would be beyond the dividing line in terms of being expressions of public support for Vladimir Putin.
"In doing this, you are your showing support for activities where children are dying, hospitals are being destroyed and civilians are being slaughtered," he said, noting that Russian soldiers involved in the invasion of Ukraine have reportedly been displaying the Ribbon of St. George.
For this reason, Vaher said he hoped that the law, currently being processed by the justice ministry, would include the orange-black ribbon, whose origins stretch back to the Tsarist era and whose colors are supposed to represent fire and gunpowder.
The spectacle of children dressed up in "Soviet army" uniforms, which has happened at previous May 9 events would similarly be unacceptable, he said.
Vaher also said that efforts were being made by the PPA to win hearts and minds ahead of the day, adding that: "I am not, however, so naive as to think there are no provocateurs around, or that there aren't the type of people who consciously want to bait the Estonian police."
The so-called Immortal Regiment organization has been holding processions at the "Bronze Soldier" monument on May 9 for many years, though the previous two events were curtailed in size due to the pandemic. As things stand, this year's event has been canceled.
Editor: Andrew Whyte