Minister asks Narva to stop helping NGO providing Russian consular services
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) asked the Mayor of Narva Katri Raik to stop assisting an organization that helps Russian citizens access consular services.
On Wednesday, ERR reported the council allows the Association of Russian Citizens to use rooms in the city library for free.
The association helps Russian citizens who find it difficult to travel to Tallinn with their paperwork, mostly in relation to pensions and passports. Russia's consulate in Narva was closed last year.
"I called the mayor of Narva and asked the city to stop helping the Russian consular mission with such premises. Estonia closed the Russian Consulate General in Narva in protest at the crimes committed in Bucha and Irpin. Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarifies rules for the Russian Embassy in Estonia on conducting one-off consular missions," Reinsalu said on Thursday.
Countries have the right to organize one-off consular assistance events, no more than once a month, outside of Tallinn, the minister said.
Countries such as Australia, which has no embassy in Estonia, have done so in the past.
Reinsalu said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will issue a note to the Russian Embassy in Tallinn clarifying the matter and will monitor compliance.
Mayor Katri Raik said citizens need help.
"A third of Narva's population are Russian citizens, who, by the way, could not renounce their Russian citizenship even if they really wanted to. Leaving them completely without help, without information, without the necessary documents, we cannot afford to do that. Russian citizens living in Estonia are also our people," she told Wenesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".
Approximately, 37,000 Russian citizens live in eastern Estonia in Ida- and Lääne-Viru counties. Half of them live in Narva.
Raik rejects Reinsalu's suggestion
The mayor told ERR's Russian service she had rejected Reinsalu's proposal.
"My answer is that we will not review this decision. This is the decision of the city government. Thirty-six percent of the population are Russian citizens. Theoretically, every third person I meet on the street is a Russian citizen. They live with us legally, they can live here," she said.
The library rooms will only be used for the provision of consular services one day a month until April, she said.
"This space was given for consular services. The fate of relations between the European Union and Russia will not be discussed, there will be no political propaganda. People can just get their documents in order. This is necessary because we are talking about old people. I think this is the right and humane approach," said Raik.
The council decided to let the NGO use the rooms for free because long queues formed outside the old workplace during the winter months.
Raik said the decision will be reviewed in spring when the weather warms up.
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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright