War museum: It is not appropriate to leave flowers at the Russian tank

Flowers left on the T-72 tank sent from Ukraine to Estonia were removed.
Flowers left on the T-72 tank sent from Ukraine to Estonia were removed. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It is not appropriate to leave flowers on the destroyed tank exhibited on Freedom Square as it represents Russian aggression, director of the Estonian War Museum Hellar Lill said on Tuesday. The Police have opened several misdemeanor cases already.

The destroyed and captured Russian T-72 tank was sent to Estonia by Ukraine last week. It has been on display in Tallinn since Saturday to show Ukraine's heroism.

But pro-Russia supporters have brought flowers to the tank and there have been reports of clashes between Ukrainian supporters and adversaries.

Lill said, just like the T-34 tank removed from Narva to the museum last year, this is not a memorial.

"We are constantly explaining to visitors that it is not appropriate to bring flowers and that people who do should think seriously about what this means," he said, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Defense.

The captured Russian T-72 tank, on display in Freedom Square, Tallinn, Saturday, February 25, 2023. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"Seeing the effects of war in our own city space is certainly emotionally disturbing. But we want the message of the exhibition to be the same for everyone: We do not want war and its destruction on our territory or anywhere else," said Lill.

The director said the tank shows Russia can be defeated as long as the necessary weapons are sent to Ukraine.

It also symbolizes the attitude of the aggressors and the human suffering the Ukrainian people must experience to keep their freedom.

The tank is expected to tour Estonian towns before being sent to the Estonian War Museum in Viimsi. The Ministry of Defense said discussions are ongoing with city councils.

It will stay on Freedom Square until Thursday, March 2. It has 24/7 security.

Flowers left on the tank were removed. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Ukraine has sent similar vehicles to Latvia, Lithuania and Germany.

Flowers were also left at the tank in Vilnius. Several groups placed carnations, normally used to decorate the graves of Soviet soldiers, and lit candles, public broadcaster LRT reported.

Russia's forces have committed over 70,000 war crimes since it launched the full-scale invasion last February, Ukraine has said.

It has been one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine during the full-scale invasion giving military aid worth more than 1 percent of GDP.

Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union twice between 1940-1941 and 1944-1991.

Police open misdemeanor procedure cases

Roger Kumm Source: ERR

Leave flowers and candles at the tank is punishable as a misdemeanor and the police have already opened several cases, said head of Ida-Harju Police Station Roger Kumm.

"The Law on Public Order says that leaving litter or objects in a place not intended for that purpose is punishable. We are treating it as such, because there is no designated place for flowers, and we are treating this story as such. I certainly do not encourage people to go out and try it," Kumm told Tuesday's "Ringvaade".

The tank is guarded 24/4 and if a conflict arises officers will intervene if necessary, he said.

However, Kumm emphasized that freedom of speech and thought is not banned in Estonia. But publicly supporting aggression is prohibited by law.  

The official said the site at Freedom Square is not dangerous but some people do want to lay flowers at the tank.

He reiterated that it is "not a memorial place" and said people should "show more support" for the Ukrainians living in Estonia.

"The fact that somebody has brought flowers there cannot be considered a major threat. However, we should not tolerate it. I do not understand why it is being done. After all, we can all read between the lines and understand that the aim is to support the aggressor, and that is not okay," the police officer said.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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