Ban on public meetings inciting hatred expanded to include all of Estonia

Flags in a May 9 procession in Tallinn in 2018.
Flags in a May 9 procession in Tallinn in 2018. Source: Sander Koit/ERR

In connection with the approach of May 9, celebrated in Russia and other communities abroad as Victory Day, police in Estonia are expanding a previously announced ban on public meetings that may incite hatred and involve displaying symbols of aggression to include the entire country.

Police have been receiving public event permit requests from various parts of the country in recent days for events where they believe the risk exists that incitement to hatred may take place or symbols of the aggressor may be displayed, Lt. Col. Andrus Reimaa of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) South Prefecture said according to a press release.

The newly expanded ban, which previously applied only to Harju and Ida-Viru counties, is initially in effect through May 10.

"In order to avoid provocations and ensure the safety of all residents, these requests will not be approved by the police, and all meetings with hostile symbols are banned throughout Estonia," Reimaa stressed.

According to the police chief, the commemoration of those who fell in World War II is not banned in Estonia, but this commemoration cannot be used to incite violence and hatred.

"One can commemorate the fallen with dignity this May 9 as well by taking flowers to and lighting candles at the cemetery, not by flying ribbons and flags used by the aggressor to justify the war in Ukraine," he stressed.

The nationwide ban is initially slated to remain in force through May 10, but may be extended as necessary, as the display of hostile symbols isn't acceptable in public spaces in Estonia at any other time either, the PPA said.

Among symbols and items banned from display are the flags of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, Ribbons of St. George and Soviet military uniforms.

Russia's war prompts legal amendments in Estonia

In connection with Russia's full-scale invasion of and ongoing war in Ukraine, the Riigikogu on Thursday, April 21 passed a bill of amendments to the Penal Code according to which it is not allowed to publicly exhibit symbols connected with the commission of an act of aggression, genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime in a way that expresses support to or justifies such activities. This is punishable by a fine of up to 300 fine units (€1200) or detention. If such an act is committed by a legal person, it is punishable by a fine of up to €32,000.

That same day, following a speech from MP Olena Shuliak, head of a visiting delegation from the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Riigikogu also unanimously adopted a statement on the Russian Federation's war crimes and genocide in Ukraine.

All 86 of 101 MPs present for the vote on the statement voted in favor of passing it.

The Riigikogu's unanimously adopted statement followed close on the heels of a similar statement likewise unanimously passed by the Saeima in Latvia on the morning of April 21 in which it also explicitly called Russia's current actions in Ukraine a genocide.

Estonian President Alar Karis on Wednesday promulgated the law amending the Penal Code to include the ban on symbols of aggression.

The section relating to the public display of symbols of aggression will enter into force the day after it is published in the Riigi Teataja (State Gazette).


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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