The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MPEÕK) would like to hold a memorial service on May 9 at the Defense Forces Cemetery in Tallinn for those who perished in World War II battles. Police only allows the service to take place in the chapel
Marina Kasparovitch, MPEÕK's acting secretary, sent a letter to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) asking for clarification on whether a memorial service would be allowed to be held in Tallinn on May 9 this year at the Defense Forces Cemetery in Tallinn.
"In previous years, it was customary for the Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia (or Bishop Sergi of Maardu in his place) to hold a funeral service on May 9 at the Tallinn Defense Forces Cemetery. The service took place at the former Orthodox church, which is now used as a chapel. During the service, prayers were read for the fallen in the battles of World War II. This year, we would like to hold this service again. Should permission be requested and the event be registered?" Kasparovitch wrote.
The ERR asked whether or not the PPA would permit religious services.
The PPA announced on Wednesday that it will prohibit the organization of public gatherings in Harju, Lääne-Viru and Ida-Viru counties from May 5 to 9 if there is reason to believe that the gathering will incite hostility by displaying symbols of the aggressor state.
Roger Kumm, head of the police station, said that nearly 200 incidents involving the use of symbols supporting the aggressor state were recorded on May 9 of last year.
"The symbols currently worn by Russian soldiers committing war crimes have no place in a free Estonia, as the courts have repeatedly ruled in the past year," Kumm said.
As such, the police are prohibiting public gatherings with a high likelihood of using hostile symbols on May 9 and the preceding days, as they can lead to serious offenses and conflicts.
"This means that there must be no processions, rallies or speeches that advocate war and support the Putin regime's war crimes in Ukraine with symbols, words and deeds," Kumm explained.
Police only allows the service to take place in the chapel
In response to ERR's request for comment, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) said that only in-chapel religious services are permitted.
Kumm said, "We kindly ask you not to hold the religious gathering in front of the chapel, as the cemetery area is a public space where public meetings are prohibited."
"If a religious or other public assembly takes place in a cemetery, the security authorities might need to interfere to determine if it is a prohibited public gathering. This activity could disrupt the religious service, which is why we ask that it take place in the chapel," Kumm explained.
On May 9, Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, which has become the foundation of its aggressive ideology. The holiday is also extensively observed in former Soviet republics and countries with sizable Russian populations. During the celebrations, it is common to see Russian tricolor, Soviet flags and the ribbon of Saint George, a Russian military symbol that also appears in Kremlin propaganda.
This article has been updated to include PPA's response.
Editor: Kristina Kersa