State secretary: Narva tank must be removed within week
In a letter sent to Narva Mayor Katri Raik (SDE) on Thursday, Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop said that the Estonian state is prepared to support the City of Narva in the removal of Soviet monuments on the expectation that they are removed within a week.
Peterkop's letter was sent in response to a phone call with Raik on Wednesday in which she requested a written overview of the government's decisions and positions regarding symbols of occupation located in public spaces.
The secretary of state said that Russia's aggression toward and hostilities in Ukraine have strained the situation involving war graves and monuments in Estonia marked with symbols of the Soviet occupation.
"Since March 4, several violations of the law have taken place involving war graves and monuments throughout Estonia," he highlighted. "The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) registered six violations involving Soviet monuments in April, eight in May, one in June and two in July."
He also noted that the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) had drawn attention in its 2019-2020 yearbook already to the fact that for Russia, Soviet and Russian monuments are a tool for sparking tensions.
Peterkop recalled that on June 30, a working group under the Government Office was established by government decision which is tasked with arranging for the removal of grave markers and monuments including symbols of occupying powers from public spaces and, if necessary, replacing them with neutral markers.
By the beginning of August, tensions had developed to the point that an excavator involved in the removal of a Red Army howitzer by Auvere Power Plant on August 2 was set on fire later that night. On August 3, more than 100 people gathered at the "Tank T-34" monument in Narva, and since then, there has been a continuous presence of a minimum of a couple of dozen people by the monument.
"A threat to public order has arisen in Ida-Viru County in connection with the removal of Soviet monuments, and effective measures must be employed to counter such a threat," the secretary of state wrote.
As a result, he continued, the government on August 4 tasked the Government Office with submitting, together with the relevant authorities, an action plan for the removal of Soviet monuments of symbolic value in Narva at the earliest opportunity.
"I hereby confirm what Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told Narva city leaders and the Estonian public on Monday, August 8 — that the state's job is to ensure public order, and that in case of danger, the state must intervene," Peterkop wrote. "The legal basis for doing so is provided by the Law Enforcement Act. I am likewise confirming that the [Estonian] state is prepared to support the City of Narva in the removal of Soviet monuments on the expectation that they are removed within a week and in such a way that precludes the monuments from causing any further tensions in Narva. In that case, the Government Office and other relevant authorities are prepared to provide the City of Narva with comprehensive support, including storing the T-34 tank from the [Narva monument] at the Estonian War Museum."
Known colloquially simply as the Narva tank, "Tank T-34" is a monument located on the left bank of the Narva River marking the spot where Soviet forces crossed the river to repel occupying German forces from the city.
It is located approximately halfway between Narva-Jõesuu and Narva's city center in Siivertsi, within the borders of the city of Narva.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla