Karis: Estonia must not seem arrogant when talking about Russian threat

Alar Karis.
Alar Karis. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

While Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine has made other EU countries take more notice of Estonia's warnings, Estonian politicians should not start to act arrogantly, President Alar Karis said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a radio interview to mark the anniversary of his first year as president, Karis said Estonia's credibility has risen since February.

"Our good colleagues in Europe have also said that we should have listened to the Baltic states earlier and more. This has perhaps increased our credibility a little bit. But we must certainly not get too arrogant about this now, but continue to send a balanced message which is still based on facts and knowledge," he told ERR's Vikerradio.

The president said the situation on the ground in Estonia needs to be communicated in a balanced way and to avoid creating a "false impression" otherwise it could lead to a decrease in investments and tourism.

"So, I think that the narratives and the stories that we tell to the outside world must also reflect reality. This means [saying] that we are not at war here, we have a normal life, it is worth coming here and it is worth investing here," he told presenter Mirko Ojakivi.

Estonia should show flexibility to mobilization Russians

The president said Estonia should show some flexibility towards Russian citizens fleeing the partial military mobilization.

Alar Karis in the Vikerradio studio. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

One example he gave was the case of other Finno-Ugric peoples and said it was a question he had asked himself some time ago.

"I think that the Estonian state needs to be flexible enough to be able to deal with such cases and also to carry out background checks. We banned tourists who have no reason to come here. I believe that it is also possible to relax these rules in individual cases where there is a clear need to come here," the president said.

Asked about the view that Russians must stay in Russia to change their own country, Karis said each case needs to be looked at separately to avoid assigning collective blame.

He said some Russians definitely do not support the war in Ukraine.

Voting rights, energy bill compensation, LNG terminal

The president also answered questions about several other issues.

Asked about his view on legislation to remove third citizens voting rights, he said this would require changing the constitution which lays out voting rights. The bill has already passed its first of three readings.

"And I can't really agree with the idea that we have wrong citizens and right citizens in Estonia," Karis said. "Let's will wait for this bill and then I can form my final opinion."

Alar Karis arriving at the studio on October 11. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The president said companies should receive help from the government to pay high energy bills, if necessary. Something the government has not agreed to do.

If companies start going bankrupt due to unpaid bills, or if prices are raised as a result, especially in the food industry, then this will create new problems for the "ordinary citizen" who will also be affected, he said.

Karis said the government has taken the needed steps to keep the lights on this winter in Estonia. "The question is what will happen next. It's already time to think about how to operate in the coming years," he said.

The president also said the government should have admitted to the public sooner that the LNG storage vessel was going to dock in Finland not Estonia.

"This is our problem, that we tend to keep things secret that have no reason to be kept secret," he said.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Helen Wright

Source: Mirko Ojakivi, Vikerradio

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