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14 Feb, 2024 17:04

EU state’s PM pushes law to destroy Soviet WWII monuments  

Estonia’s Kaja Kallas says memorials should be demolished despite the Baltic nation’s president vetoing the legislation last year
EU state’s PM pushes law to destroy Soviet WWII monuments  

Estonia should press ahead with legislation allowing the demolition of Soviet WWII memorials from public spaces, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas declared on Tuesday.   

Along with Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia has intensified its campaign targeting Soviet-era war monuments since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, describing the memorials as symbols of “occupation.”  

“We have to move forward with this legislation, since it was accepted in the Riigikogu [Estonian parliament], but was returned. We have an agreement within the coalition that it must be amended, so we must move it forward,” Kallas told the ETV broadcaster. 

Last March, Estonian President Alar Karis vetoed the law passed by the parliament on the removal of Soviet war monuments, citing the vagueness of the wording and inconsistency with the Estonian Constitution. The bill was then returned for revisions.  

Kallas said in August 2022 that Russian actions against Ukraine had opened “long-existing wounds” in Estonian society, claiming that hundreds of remaining Soviet monuments were a reminder of this and should be removed “as soon as possible.”   

On Tuesday, Russian authorities issued arrest warrants for Kallas as well as Estonia Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop, Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys, and members of the previous Latvian parliament over their efforts to destroy Soviet WWII memorials.   

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kallas was wanted for the “desecration of historical memory” and accused the Estonian government of waging “war with a common history.”   

In September 2023, the Russian Investigative Committee charged in absentia more than 170 foreign individuals – including citizens of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and Estonia – for the desecration and destruction of monuments dedicated to Soviet soldiers.  

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were under the control of the Russian Empire in the 19th century, but declared independence following the 1917 revolution. Soon after the start of the World War II, the Soviet Union incorporated the Baltic states. However, shortly thereafter, the territories were seized by Nazi Germany.   

Soviet forces liberated the three countries from German troops, and they again were part of the USSR until its collapse in 1991. The current governments in the three Baltic nations – which are all members of the EU and NATO – claim this was a period of “Russian occupation” and view the Soviet-era monuments as symbols of oppression.  

Over the past two years, numerous sites have been destroyed in the three countries, including memorials commemorating Soviet soldiers killed in WWII.

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