Police will respond firmly to pro-war symbols in May 9 commemorations
The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) do not intend to ban gatherings on May 9 to commemorate those who died in the Second World War. However, they will respond firmly to the use of symbols of Russia's aggression in Ukraine and attempts to spread pro-war propaganda.
"The Estonian police will not ban the commemoration of the dead. You can bow your head and lay flowers at a cemetery. However, the commemoration must not be used to incite conflict or hatred," said Roger Kumm, head of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) Ida-Harju station.
Kumm said, that the police could not rule out people gathering spontaneously, but that it should be borne in mind that using pro-war symbols is prohibited.
"The police will react forcefully to such symbols. We will have the symbols removed and initiate proceedings," Kumm stressed. "The police urge people not to go to May 9 rallies aimed at creating provocations. If anyone does observe any violations or pro-war symbols, we ask them to report it to the police," he added.
Estonia's Russian-speaking population usually commemorate the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany on May 9, holding processions and laying flowers at Soviet-era memorials and monuments.
However, Kumm added, that up to now, no public gatherings have been registered with the police for May 9 in connection with what Russia marks as "Victory Day."
"The police review every registration request for a public gathering in detail. If we identify that it may be a meeting in support of aggression, then the police will ban it. Processions have been part of these public meetings and we are able to ban them if necessary," Kumm said.
In April 2007, the overnight removal of the Soviet Bronze Soldier monument from central Tallinn to the Defense Forces Cemetery on the city's outskirts triggered a wave of unrest and rioting, which has since become known as the "Bronze Night."
Rallies and other actions have marked the anniversary of the Bronze Night ever since, with some past participants wearing Soviet and Russian insignia, which is now being used by Russia to promote its ongoing military aggression in Ukraine.
"The police will be out in force on May 9, as (we are) on the anniversary of the Bronze Night to maintain public order and prevent any violations. We are in contact with the Estonian War Museum, which manages the Defense Forces Cemetery, to advise them on security issues," said Kumm, head of the East-Harju police station.
Last year, the May 9 commemorations in Estonia passed relatively peacefully, with very few incidents requiring police intervention.
"We can see that people have acknowledged the ban on insignia and there have been very few violations," said Vaiko Vaher, head of the strategic headquarters of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at the time.
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Editor: Michael Cole