Police: May 9 celebrations have been largely peaceful in Estonia

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Vaiko Vaher, head of the strategic headquarters of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), said that May 9 celebrations at the military cemetery on Tallinn's Filtri tee and elsewhere in Estonia have been largely peaceful. The police have 600 additional officers on duty to help ensure public order.

Vaher told ERR that three noteworthy incidents happened before noon. An intoxicated man refused to remove a Ribbon of St. George he was wearing and tried to organize a convoy of vehicles that would have displayed pro-war insignia. A woman in Tallinn was taken to the station on Monday morning after she promoted the wearing of Soviet uniforms. Officers engaged in preventative conversation with her. A man who refused to remove a Ribbon of St. George from his clothing was taken to the police station in Narva.

"It has been calm otherwise. We can see that people have acknowledged the ban on insignia and there have been very few violations," Vaher said.

Talking to ERR again in the afternoon, Vaher said that 25 misdemeanor proceedings had been brought by 2.45 p.m., with around 100 incidents involving symbols of war registered in Tallinn and Narva.

"Setting the tone in Narva are serial violators whom we have repeatedly engaged but who seem not to understand that May 9 needs to be celebrated differently this year," Vaher said.

He pointed out two incidents. "The first took place near the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn where a small child was wearing a Soviet railroad trooper's hat. Even though the mother claimed the hat did not constitute war insignia, the gesture clearly promoted the Soviet armed forces. We confiscated the hat but did not initiate proceedings. The mother made clever use of her child to demonstrate mentality," Vaher remarked.

The police officer said that people have become cleverer and are trying to find different ways of demonstrating mentality. "Whether it is a white armband, military symbols, self-made placards, ribbons or posters. Our attitude to them is no different than it is toward the Ribbon of St. George or the letter Z," he said.

Another incident took place in Sillamäe where the police had to break into an apartment. "The problem there was that the person had a Soviet Union flag on their window. The person was home and refused to open the door to the officers. Negotiations proved unfruitful after a long while, which is why we were forced to open the door and remove the flag," Vaher said.

The police have not learned of any organized gatherings at this time.

Several thousand people also took to the Defense Forces Cemetery on Sunday to place wreaths and candles at the base of the monument.

The police have 600 additional officers on duty to help ensure public order, PPA head Elmar Vaher said on Monday morning.

As of Monday evening, the PPA said around 50 people had been escorted to a police station, with proceedings initiated against 30 of them.

Vaher said of those proceedings: "There are in essences two outcomes - either they will receive a fine of €1,200 or they will have to spend a period of time under arrest."

In one case, at around 4 p.m. at the Bronze Soldier on Filtri tee, two women reportedly mimicked processions which had taken place in previous years as organized by the "Immortal Regiment" association, with one of the women taking photos of the activity.

While one woman – the photographer – deleted the photos taken, while the other refused to refrain from her actions and was taken to the police station.

Recent legislation covers a broad sweep of barred symbols, while attempted workarounds, Vaher said, included wearing white wristbands. While these are not obviously connected to May 9, Russian soldiers engaged in the invasion of Ukraine have reportedly worn white wristbands for identification purposes.

As of the end of day, the PPA in Ida-Viru County had had to intervene close to 70 times in relation to the May 9 events, and had taken 19 people to PPA stations, mainly in regard to the wearing of banned insignia.

In Narva, close to 4,000 people visited the war memorials on the day (see gallery below), primarily the memorial plaque in Peetri plats. Only a handful of attendees visibly wore Ribbons of St. George, ERR reports, and removed these at the PPA's request.

Meanwhile in Kohtla-Järve, the day's events attracted hundreds of people (see gallery below) most of whom came to the statue there

Ergo Soosaar, senior law enforcement officer with the PPA's Eastern Prefecture, said as of 6.45 p.m. Monday that: "Kohtla-Järve has been relatively calm for the police today; fortunately there have been no serious incidents. The majority of people who visited the memorial today were law-abiding."

Again, a handful of cases of members of the public wearing the Ribbon of St. George were reported and these were also resolved amicably; in the morning, one man was detained in the town after acting aggressively towards PPA officials.

Both Narva and Kohtla-Järve are largely Russian-speaking.

The PPA had specially set-aside officers termed "Dialoogi Politsei" ("Dialogue Police") for the May 9 events, in order to communicate with attendees better.

Thousands have traditionally gathered at the Defense Forces Cemetery on May 9 that is home to the Bronze Soldier monument, formerly located at Tõnismäe, since 2007. In past years, many have come in processions, wearing Soviet army and Russian symbols and clothes and waving flags. Such activities are prohibited this year. People are allowed to visit the Bronze Soldier and remember those who died in WWII.

This article was updated to include information on incidents later on in the day on May 9 in Tallinn, and to include galleries and short reports of events in Narva and Kohtla-Järve.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski, Andrew Whyte

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