Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), commenting on putting a destroyed Russian tank on display in Estonia, said that the reactions of Kremlin supporters were to be expected and that displaying the captured tank in other cities besides Tallinn will be negotiated with local governments.
"No, it did not come as a surprise. We have seen past attempts by Kremlin supporters to try and demonstrate how Putin has done nothing wrong," Pevkur said when asked about the reactions of Russia's supporters in Estonia.
Pro-Russian people have brought flowers to the destroyed T-72 tank currently on display in Tallinn's Freedom Square and there have been reports of clashes between Ukraine supporters and adversaries.
"Such events and tanks fuel passions. There can be no doubt. At the same time, we all understand how much Ukraine needs support as well as how many civilians have died and been injured, how many have been deported to Russia," he added. "Local Kremlin and Putin supporters taking advantage of the fact has been seen in other cities. There have been attempts to fan tensions in Berlin, Latvia and Lithuania," the defense minister remarked.
Pevkur said that putting the captured and destroyed tank on display is meant to serve as an act of support for Ukraine and proof that it is possible to stand up to those who are bigger than you. The initiative to showcase the destroyed Russian tank came from Ukraine, the minister added.
Ministry to work with local governments on any decisions
Asked about the ministry's plan to put the tank on display in other Estonian cities, including Narva, Pevkur said this aspect will be negotiated with the local governments first.
"We are staying in touch with cities, trying to decide how to move forward. /.../ We are trying to negotiate with cities and mayors in terms of where they stand. We will not be moving the tank to cities that do not agree. If the local governments are reluctant to go along, we will take the tank to the Estonian War Museum in Viimsi where it will be put next to the T-34 tank [removed from Narva this summer]. But we will make that decision once we have talked to local governments," the minister assured.
Pevkur on February 23 sent a letter to local government heads, clarifying that the ministry wants to display the exhibit in various cities between February 25 and the end of March.
The minister also said other cities have asked to display the tank. "For example, we received a request from Valga today, saying they would love to display the tank in their local war museum."
Narva has become hesitant, Pevkur admitted. "Yes, I have discussed it with the mayor of Narva [Katri Raik], and while she was initially of the mind that it would be sensible to show people what is happening in Ukraine, she has become more hesitant since then. Therefore, we will try to decide today in terms of how to move forward," the defense minister said.
The tank will remain in Tallinn's Freedom Square until March 2.
Editor: Marcus Turovski