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Mayor to skip national election over removal of WWII monument

Estonian city leader says she won’t stand in parliamentary election when MPs target war memorials

The Estonian government voted on Tuesday to remove several Soviet-era war memorials in Ida-Viru county, including a historic T-34 tank in the provincial capital Narva. In protest, the local mayor announced that she would not stand in next year’s parliamentary elections.

Katri Raik blasted the brutality of the decision, which was made over her administration’s head.

“Right now, I can’t imagine myself sitting in the same room as these people, who made this decision the way they did,” the city official told national public broadcaster ERR.

The situation could change in the coming months, she added, but right now her only thoughts are to serve her city, she said. Estonia is expected to elect a new parliament in March 2023.

The T-34 tank memorial was a flashpoint between the Estonian nationalist government and the Russian community in Narva. For many Tallinn officials, the Soviet memorials symbolize a period in history they see as an occupation by Moscow. While others see them as a reminder of the sacrifices made during World War II and the victory over Nazi Germany.

The Estonian government ordered several war memorials in Ida-Viru cordoned off early Tuesday morning. They must be transferred to a museum in Viimsi, a small town in the north of the Baltic country.

Last week, the ERR reported that the government was secretly planning an operation to eliminate “memorials and monuments with symbols of the occupying authority” Estonian public spaces.

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The town of Narva, where ethnic Russians constitute an overwhelming majority, has not taken action against the T-34 monument. The city legislature decided to defer the issue at a meeting on Monday. Meanwhile, the central government has requested that the tank be out of town by August 20, when Estonia celebrates Independence Restoration Day.

The Estonian cabinet held a press conference on Tuesday to explain the situation to the public. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and his ministers said a total of seven Soviet monuments needed to be removed and argued that the issue went beyond what local authorities could decide on their own.

Meanwhile, border crossings between Russia and Estonia’s Ida-Viru county were closed for several hours on Tuesday for what the Estonian Border Guard Service described as a necessary software update.

Estonian police restricted traffic in central Narva and asked people not to go to the targeted monuments. Specially trained officers have been deployed to each site to defuse any potential trouble, they said.


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