Former minister: Messages on Narva 'tank' removal must be unified

Raivo Aeg (Isamaa).
Raivo Aeg (Isamaa). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Stances from a political and a law enforcement perspective regarding the fate of a controversial Soviet-era monument just outside the eastern city of Narva ought to be unified before any action is taken, former interior minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) says.

Aeg, who in addition to being a former minister is also a former police chief, told ERR's Indrek Kiisler that in the event of any opposition or provocateur activity, contact should be made with those initiating it, and their motives established.

"They should be contacted, negotiated with, informed of the consequences if they provoke the situation or bring it to a level where it is necessary to use police force. The messages must be clear. The police must have definite agendas and plans, and they must the police have so much experience with such large-scale events that there is no doubt that the police were not prepared in advance," said Aeg.

"Contact should be made with them and they should be informed of what consequences would ensue if they provoke a situation or bring it to such a level where police force is needed," Aeg said.

"Messages must be clear - the police have to have concrete steps and plans in place … the police have such broad experience with large scale events, that there is no doubt that the authority would be prepared in advance," he went on.

Political messages and those of law enforcement reading from the same hymn sheet was key, Aeg added.

"Hopefully Narva's local government will also find it in itself to express its views, to avoid the same situation as happened with the transfer of the Bronze Soldier, when the then mayor [of Tallinn] Edgar Savisaar remained silent and refrained from taking a stand," Aeg went on, referring to the April 2007 "Bronze Soldier night" riots.

Kiisler also asked Aeg for comment on interior minister Lauri Läänemetsa's (SDE) pledge to remove the "tank", actually a replica of a World War Two-era T-34, during daylight hours and in full view of the public, Aeg said the statement fell flat.

"Politicians should not start dictating the details of how to carry out one operation or another. Whether it takes place early in the morning, late in the evening or at night, this should be up to those who have to carry out the operation from a techinical sperpective. The politician had a little problem with this. Such time definitions should not have been established," Aeg said..

Police forces from other parts of Estonia will also be expected to secure the transfer of the Narva tank, Aeg said. "It can be fully assumed that more than a few people members of the public will express their feelings there, and in order for the situation there not to escalate and get out of control, the police there must have sufficient resources and reserves. This reserve will primarily come from other regions," he said.

Aeg added that, in order to prevent the occurrence of possible wider disturbances in the city of Narva, it is necessary to carry out operational intelligence and collect information, it is not possible to guard all sites that may come under attack.

"I think that the period of preparation has been long enough as it is. The discussion about it has been going on for quite a long time. Additional time will not change anything. Their position that this tank cannot be removed from there will not change. I think that some kind of negotiation would give a result that they might change their views, is a bit naive," he went on.

"However, those people need to be told very clearly what the consequences are if this process goes beyond the framework of the law. The fact that people can express their will, stand there, declare something is part of a democratic society," he added.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) is set to meet with members of the Narva city government, including its mayor, Katri Raik, as well as with opposition councilors, to discuss the matter.

Kallas has repeatedly said the monument, located just north of Narva on the main road to Narva-Jõesuu, a nearby resort town, should be removed, given the current defense and security situation.

Last week, between 100 and 150 people gathered near the monument, following rumors it was about to be removed.

The tank is a replica T-34 and its turret is adorned with a red star, symbol of the Soviet Union and its armed forces. The current invasion of Ukraine by the Soviet Union's successor state, in effect, ie. the Russian Federation, has meant such installations are inappropriate, leading Estonian politicians. and much of public opinion. say.

Raivo Aeg was Minister of Justice in the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition, April 2019-January 2021.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: Interview with Indrek Kiisler.

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