A Soviet monument in a Russian-speaking Estonian border town will be removed because it represents a public order risk, the prime minister has said.
Prime minister Kaja Kallas said: “No-one wants to see our militant and hostile neighbour foment tensions in our home,” adding that the move came following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We will not afford Russia the opportunity to use the past to disturb the peace in Estonia.”
Outside Narva, Estonia’s third largest town, with a large Russian-speaking population, a replica of a T-34 tank with a red Soviet star sits atop a monument commemorating the Soviet soldiers who died freeing Estonia from Germany during the Second World War.
The whole monument was being dismantled on Tuesday and “the operation will be carried out in a dignified manner, for example, the flowers and the candles placed at the monuments will be taken to a cemetery, not thrown in the rubbish”, interior minister Lauri Laanemets said on Tuesday, according to the Baltic News Service.
Estonian broadcaster ERR said the dismantling was under way.
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said Russia “wanted to use the memorials commemorating the criminal occupation regime to fuel tensions in Estonian society”.
“Considering the current situation, ensuring public order is complicated for the authorities of the city of Narva,” Mr Laanemets said, and called it a “a great and complex issue”.
Since winning independence in 1991, the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million people has been entangled in disputes over the status of Russians, most of whom arrived in Estonia during the 50 years of Soviet rule.
In 2007, the relocation of the so-called Bronze Statue of Tallinn, another Soviet war memorial, from a city park, led to days of rioting.