Education minister: Teacher had right to wear anti-Putin t-shirt

Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200).
Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200). Source: ERR

A Narva teacher who has stepped down after a backlash over her public statements on Russian leader Vladimir Putin was exercising her right to free speech, Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) says.

Kallas added that she also concurs with the viewpoint of the teacher, Alina Vorontšihhina,  who teaches music at the Narva Vanalinna riigikool but is to leave her post in a week's time, after sporting a t-shirt in public, which referred to Putin in derogatory terms.

Minister Kallas has requested an explanatory letter on the matter from the school's director, Tatjana Salu.

The minister stressed that Vorontšihhina was not fired, and is leaving of her own volition, adding that: "I am dealing with this issue in hand now, and I have asked the school's director for a letter of explanation."

"It is surely unacceptable for parents to pressurize a teacher, forcing her into a corner in this way, until she quits," the minister went on.

"The teacher has the right to express her own opinion, while the director must protect the teacher from such attacks. And this [Vorontšihhina] statement of opinion was absolutely correct, and the teacher had the right to express it. I am trying to establish, together with the head of the school, what actually happened there during a 10-minute conversation between the director and the teacher," Kallas continued.

Vorontšihhina was filmed wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a slogan, in Russian, which could be interpreted as reading "Putin is a d*ck" depending on which letters one substitutes the starred-out characters with.

The teacher was at the time, Tuesday, on the public promenade alongside the Narva River, on the day when a pro-Putin, pro-war concert had been organized just across the river in Ivangorod, in Russian territory, and effectively played also for an audience on the Estonian side of the river.

May 9 is "victory day" in Russia.

The video soon circulated on social media, prompting a backlash from angry parents and also some pupils, which in turn led to the short meeting between Salu and Vorontšihhina, and the latter's resignation. At that meeting, Salu had reportedly requested Vorontšihhina face the upset parents, to give an account of herself.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

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