Russia has 5.2 percent of Estonia’s territory and Tallinn must return it, Estonian Internal Affairs Minister Mart Helme has claimed.
“There should be no double standards. 5.2 percent of Estonia’s territory remains in Russia’s hands to this day. Russia does not want to return this territory, provide compensation for it, or even discuss this question,” Helme said, speaking at a press conference on Thursday.
Helme assured that his country was “not going to fight with Russia” to get back the territory it has claimed, but would “wait patiently” and use international legal mechanisms to do so.
Helme, leader of the Conservative People’s Party, a nationalist party which joined the Estonian coalition government which formed following elections in March, is no stranger to making controversial statements. In years past, he has proposed stripping ethnic Russians of the right to vote, called them a ‘fifth column’, fought to rehabilitate Estonian Legion troops who served in Nazi Germany’s SS forces during World War II, and courted controversy in the West over his alleged racist and homophobic sentiments.
Russia and Estonia signed a border treaty in February 2014 in a bid to formalize the administrative border which existed at the moment of the Soviet Union’s collapse. However, some political forces, including Helme and the Conservative People’s party, opposed ratifying the treaty, claiming the document would formalize Moscow’s right to territories claimed by Estonia under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu, which gave Tallinn control over Russian territories in the northeast and southeast during the interwar years. These territories were returned to Russia in 1944, after Estonia joined the Soviet Union. Russia’s parliament postponed the ratification of the 2014 treaty amid poor relations between the two countries. In 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would return to the border issue once bilateral relations improved.
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