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21 Feb, 2024 14:57

EU state’s leader sees elderly Russians as potential threat

Some people who arrived in the Soviet era miss the feeling of being in charge of Estonia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has claimed
EU state’s leader sees elderly Russians as potential threat

Younger Russian speakers in Estonia consider themselves Estonian, but their older counterparts who arrived during the Soviet era pose more of a problem, the prime minister of the EU and NATO nation has said.

In an interview with German broadcaster ARD on Tuesday, Kaja Kallas was asked whether she was concerned that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin might use the large proportion of ethnic Russians in Estonia as a pretext for an invasion.

The prime minister responded the share of native Russian speakers in Estonia has declined from 30% to 20% since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

According to the latest government figures, Estonia’s population stands at just under 1.4 million, meaning there are around 280,000 native Russian speakers in the Baltic nation.

”The Russians in Estonia, of course, are not a homogeneous group. There’s a big difference between old and young people,” Kallas argued.

Younger Russian speakers “see that Russia is invading Ukraine, and that this is wrong, and that we have to fight against it”, and understand that if Russia arrives to “liberate” them or ethnic Russians living in other countries, then “they will lose their homes and their comfort zone,” the prime minister said.

However, Kallas claimed that older Russian speakers, who came to Estonia during the Soviet period, have a different attitude as “they ruled over our country and they want that feeling back.”

The danger that Putin might pose to Estonia and the whole of NATO “depends on the outcome of the war in Ukraine,” she stressed. “If we don’t do enough to stop him there, it’ll continue. With each further step, he’ll become even more emboldened.”

“No one is safe if we don't stop the aggressor” because events in one part of Europe spread “very quickly” to other parts of the continent, Kallas warned.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected Western claims that Moscow is planning to attack NATO, describing them as “just threat mongering.”

In his interview with US journalist Tucker Carlson, Putin said Moscow would send its forces into Poland, for example, “only in one case: if Poland attacks Russia. Why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia [one of the three Baltic States together with Lithuania and Estonia] or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don't have any interest,” the Russian leader stressed.