Kallas: Soviet monuments will be moved as soon as possible
The government has agreed communist monuments in public spaces, including the T-34 tank in Narva, will be moved as soon as possible, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Wednesday. The exact timing depends on logistics.
"We have decided the main thing, Soviet monuments must be removed from public spaces and we will do it as quickly as possible," Kallas said at the government's weekly Thursday press conference.
"The specific time and order depends on the readiness and logistical plans of local governments, logistics require exactly the same consideration, organization and the involvement of the private sector."
There are estimated to be between 200 and 400 Soviet monuments across Estonia. The prime minister said those on private land can be removed by their owners, such as Auvere Power Plant did earlier this week.
"A separate issue is the Narva tank, which has been talked about a lot. Currently, this tank belongs to the City of Narva, and in the current legal space it has been difficult. But since it is clear that Narva is not doing it itself, tensions are rising there, it is clear that the Estonian state and government must make the decision themselves to move this and other monuments with symbolic value," said Kallas.
"It is important to overemphasize that commemorating the dead is not prohibited in any way and will not be prohibited, but that it should be done in the right place and that is at a cemetery, where it can be done with dignity," said Kallas.
"A tank is a murder weapon, it is not a memorial, and these same tanks are killing people on the streets of Ukraine right now," Kallas said.
The prime minister said an exact removal schedule cannot be published yet but plans are moving forward.
"It is important that tensions do not escalate there or elsewhere. It is clear that Russian aggression in Ukraine has torn open the wounds in our society that these communist monuments remind us of and therefore their removal from public space is necessary to avoid additional tensions," she said.
Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) told the press conference the impromptu gathering in Narva on Wednesday evening around the monument was caused by rumors.
No incidents were reported but the police explained to several people that the tank would not be taken away under cover of darkness.
"If something happens, then the government of the republic will say so. Such things will not be allowed to happen secretly in the dead of night," he said.
Läänemets said he has presented his own proposal for its tank's removal to the government. He said all possible incidents will be taken into consideration and internal security and public order will be guaranteed.
When doing these things, it must be kept in mind that Narva will continue to be part of Estonia afterward, he said.
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Editor: Helen Wright