Estonian PM: We're not gonna repatriate mobilization-aged Ukrainians

14.01.2024 20:45
Heidi Saar

During a recent visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Tallinn, Estonia, the topic of repatriating Ukrainian refugees residing in Estonia came up. However, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas clarified that Estonia does not plan to initiate the repatriation of Ukrainian refugees under legal protection.

In an interview with the Kyiv Independent, Kallas confirmed discussing the issue of Ukrainian refugees, particularly focusing on men of mobilization age. President Zelenskyy highlighted the diverse roles played by people in Ukraine, including those on the battlefield, taxpayers supporting the military, and those living abroad in countries like Estonia.

Kallas emphasized that Ukrainian refugees have the right to be in Estonia as long as they comply with the rules, and the European Union provides them with temporary protection upon reaching Estonia. Estonia has no intention of repatriating these individuals, and Kallas asserted that it is Ukraine's responsibility to approach its citizens in Estonia and request their return to contribute to their homeland.

In a joint press conference with Kallas in Tallinn, President Zelenskyy expressed the need for mobilization-aged men who fled Ukraine to return, either to participate in the fight against Russia or contribute to the country's economy.
Estonia has been a destination for tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets had previously expressed support for repatriating relevant refugees to Ukraine, stating that if needed, Estonia could locate and repatriate individuals based on their known activities and residences in Estonia.

While official requests from Kyiv had not been received at that time, the Estonian Ministry of the Interior had proactively contacted the Ukrainian ambassador and interior minister, offering assistance in reporting refugees in the country. Läänemets was expected to propose a written agreement between the two countries to facilitate repatriation, considering that extradition of foreign nationals is typically only possible in cases involving criminal prosecution.

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