The atmosphere in Moscow has seen a sea change since the recent start of the counter-offensive launched by Ukrainian forces in the conflict in that country, Estonia's ambassador to the Russian Federation says.
Speaking to ETV morning show "Terevisioon" via video link Thursday, Estonian Ambassador to Russia Margus Laidre said "Of course, there was a very big contrast when Ukraine's counter-offensive and military success began to become more and more apparent on the international stage.
"At the same time, last Sunday saw the celebrations of the 875th anniversary of the founding of Moscow was, when crowds were freely moving and nothing was noticeable on the surface.
"However, I would definitely dare to say that the atmosphere in Moscow, perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the war, has changed to some extent," Laidre went on.
Since the current phase of the conflict began in February, there has been a vast decline in consular work for the embassy, Laidre said.
"Moscow's visa load in round numbers has usually been, before the war, 1,700 visas a week. Now it has dropped to a hundred," he said.
Estonia recently stopped admitting access to Russian citizens who held Schengen Area tourist visas issued in Estonia, in any case, while this ban will be extended to holders of Schengen tourist visas from any member state, from next week.
On the other hand, Laidre said: "Approximately 20,000 Estonian citizens live in Russia, and due to the closure of other Estonian consulates, people are now turning to the embassy in Moscow with their daily concerns and problems, which means that our workload has increased by 50 percent."
The consulates in St. Petersburg and Pskov have both stopped working, though the foreign ministry has retained its lease on the St. Petersburg building.
The Moscow embassy has also become the focal point of written attacks and even death threats, mostly the result of last month's relocation of a World War Two-era Soviet tank, used as a war memorial, from the border town of Narva, to a museum near Tallinn.
Actions included the placing of a large boulder in front of the embassy's main entrance which had been painted in the Estonian flag's colors and which had a rope noose tied to it, he said.
"Naturally we contact the Russian authorities and ask them to pay increased attention to our security," he said.
Nonetheless, these attacks have abated in recent days, Laidre said, as has the flood of inquirers asking about how and when they might be able to travel to Estonia.
Laidre also noted that the younger generation in Moscow seem to be comparatively well-informed about the reality of the situation in Ukraine and also remain connected to the world outside Russia.
Editor: Andrew Whyte