Three Russian students, who study in Estonia, told ETV's current affairs program 'Ringvaade Suvel' that it is not safe for them to return to Russia because they support Ukraine.
The Estonian government yesterday announced that Russian students studying in Estonia would be given a one-year visa extension to enable them complete their studies, beyond the nominal time. Alina Abramova, Olga Mirina and Petr Zaytsev, all students at the University of Tartu's Narva College, spoke to 'Ringvaade Suvel' about the issue.
Abramova said that, while a one-year visa extension would help Russian students in Estonia, they would still not be able to continue their studies.
On the program, the students said that they did not want to return to Russia after a year, with Mirina explaining that doing so would be difficult, because Russia has passed numerous laws over a period of several years, which violate people's rights.
"And now there is this brutal war going on in Ukraine. Of course, we cannot go back because we all publicly support Ukraine, we donate money to the Ukrainian army and help refugees, (and) we have worked as volunteers in a refugee center," Mirina said.
According to Abramova and Zaytsev, if the students were to return to Russia, it is likely they would be sent to prison or forced to join the army.
Abramova said all her acquaintances in similar positions were either trying to find ways to stay in Estonia or to go anywhere else, but definitely not back to Russia.
"We would also like to add that Russia is no longer our home," added Abramova, who speaks fluent Estonian. "After we moved here, to Estonia, we took all our things with us and started to study and work here. Some people even got married and started a family in Estonia. Maybe Estonia is our home now," she added.
Abramova said that, in theory, Russian students who want to stay in Estonia have the possibility to apply for international protection, but the process is not necessarily an easy one. She explained that, while it is theoretically possible for Russian students who have expressed support for Ukraine to receive international protection, in practice it is rarely granted in such cases.
"Because the person has not yet been to Russia, only expressed their opinion publicly or supported the Ukrainian army. There is a possibility, but it is more likely that (international protection) would not to be granted," she said.
According to Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu, there are approximately 350 students from the Russian Federation currently studying in Estonia.
"The Ministry of the Interior estimates that the number of students who would need this (visa extension) in the next year is 50," said Reinsalu.
Editor: Michael Cole