Petition calls for renaming Russian embassy address to 'Free Ukraine'

The Russian Embassy in Estonia has been the scene of protests since the invasion started on February 24.
The Russian Embassy in Estonia has been the scene of protests since the invasion started on February 24. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A petition calling for the renaming of a stretch of the Tallinn street which is home to the Russian Embassy in Estonia to an address expressing support for Ukraine has collected close to 1,000 signatures so far.

The petition, hosted by the Rahvaalgatus people's initiative website, calls for renaming Pikk 19, the embassy's address, to Vaba Ukraina 1 (English: Free Ukraine 1), ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday.

Ukraine's foreign ministry has requested Estonia make the name change, AK reported.

Hannes Nagel, who set up the petition, told AK that the petition: "Is a direct use of soft power, since if we look at what has been very disruptive to the Kremlin today, this would be that their tennis players are not allowed to compete in Wimbledon, or their Olympic swimming winners are no longer admitted to events."

The petition has been open six days as of Tuesday morning and had garnered 969 signatures at the time of writing. If it reaches the 4,400-mark as of May 24, it will be forwarded to the Tallinn City Government, AK reported.

Tallinn deputy mayor Madle Lippus (SDE) told AK that the city government is already processing a bill which would name a section of Lembitu Park in central Tallinn as "Ukraine Square" (Ukraina väljak).

"The decision was based on the concept of having this type of symbolic place, where people can gather," Lippus told AK.

While the petition calls for a 22-meter section of Pikk Street in Tallinn's Old Town, the scene of several demonstrations in recent weeks, Lippus said making the change was not as straightforward as it might seem.

She said: "Under Estonian law, this is not so simple, because the street where the Russian embassy is located already has a name. It means public display, it also means obtaining the consent of the Minister of Regional Affairs," Lippus said.

Latvia and Lithuania, along with several other European countries, have renamed the addresses of the Russian embassies to reflect support for Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia's war on its southern neighbor, now entering its third month.

Deputy mayor Lippus said that Ukraine's ambassador to Estonia, along with the Ukrainian community in Estonia, had expressed support for renaming part of Lembitu Park, while the draft bill will be put up for public debate before the city government makes a final decision, she said.

Hannes Nagel said that while a pleasant gesture, this would not send clear enough of a message to Russian diplomats that what their country was doing was not acceptable, however.

The petition also contains an option to make the street name change temporary, pending the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity, AK reported.

The petition does not represent the first time calls have been made to rename the section of Pikk which houses Russia's embassy; in 2019, Reform Party MP Eerik-Niiles Kross called for the renaming of a small plaza close by the embassy, and in effect making up the intersection of Pikk and Pühavaimu, as "Nemtsov square" in honor of the murdered Russian dissident Boris Nemtsov. The city government rejected the request.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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