Pictures and video: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in Estonia

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited Tallinn, Estonia, on 10-11 January, where he met with the country’s political leaders and addressed the Estonian parliament.

Zelensky arrived in Tallinn on the evening of 10 January from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on the Ukrainian presidential plane. On 11 January, he met with the Estonian president Alar Karis, parliament speaker Lauri Hussar, and prime minister Kaja Kallas.

The Ukrainian president also gave a short speech to the Estonian parliament, in which he thanked Estonia and its people for their support of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Estonian parliament on 11 January 2024.

“Dear Estonian people, I am glad to have the opportunity to thank you personally today. Thank you for standing on the side of freedom, and not just on the side of Ukrainian freedom. It is very symbolic that from the perspective of Estonian and Ukrainian history, 24 February takes on a completely different meaning. On this day, Estonia celebrates the independence of its republic and continues to do so. It was on 24 February [2022] that Russia tried to restore its old Soviet Union or the Russian Empire or some hybrid empire by attacking Ukraine. On 24 February we did not break – all of us, our people, our friends, the whole free world,” Zelensky said in his speech to the Estonian parliament.

“We must win the battle that is now taking place. Not only because it is a battle for our lives, for the people of Ukraine, for our cities, for our communities, which Russia is trying to reduce to rubble. We must win this battle, not just because it will decide the fate of our country and the fate of all the countries and peoples that border Russia. This struggle will decide what is free today and what the global attitude of our children and grandchildren will be. Freedom must be able to win by resisting tyranny. And that is why the war that Russia has now started against us, against Ukraine, is a war not only for us, not only for our continent, but for all nations that value their freedom or dream of being free,” the Ukrainian president said.

Zelensky also said that any defence industry that exists or could be created in Europe that could “help Europe protect freedom” must be “100% operational”. “Europe must have its own personal protection potential to protect and guarantee it,” he noted in his speech.

Zelensky: Ukraine needs mobilised men living abroad

The Ukrainian president said at the press conference following his meeting with Kaja Kallas that his country needed the return of mobilised Ukrainian men who had gone abroad – to fight Russian aggression and support the country’s economy.

“We see that there are people who have gone abroad in violation of Ukrainian rules. These men, if they are of mobilisation age, should be in Ukraine to help Ukraine. I am not talking about whether and who should be on the front line, we have a law for that. But this is about ethics and morality,” Zelensky said.

He pointed out that one soldier fighting on the front line costs six to eight taxpayers’ money.

“Even if you are in Ukraine and you are not on the front line, but you are working and paying taxes, you are also contributing, you are defending the country, and that is also very necessary,” Zelenski said. “But if you are abroad and subject to mobilisation, but you do not pay taxes in Ukraine and you left the country illegally, then we have questions,” the Ukrainian president said in response to a question from a journalist with the Estonian daily, Õhtuleht.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, meeting the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, at Stenbock House in Tallinn on 11 January 2024. Photo by Raul Mee.

Zelensky did not give a clear answer to the question of whether Estonia should extradite Ukrainian men who are subject to mobilisation.

“If we want to save Ukraine and Europe, we must all consider whether we are helping Ukraine or not. Maybe we are citizens who are on the battlefield or citizens who work and pay taxes. Otherwise, there will be no money for the military and there will be no one left to defend Ukraine,” the Ukrainian president said.

PM Kallas: Estonia believes in Ukraine’s victory

The Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas stressed during her meeting with Zelenskyy that “Estonia believes in Ukraine’s victory”. “For Ukraine to turn its bravery into victory, the support of the free world must continue. We must support Ukraine as long as it is needed and, crucially, as much as is necessary for Ukraine’s victory,” Kallas said, according to the government press service.

“We believe in Ukraine, which is a country with a liberal democracy and a free market economy, and which will become a member of the European Union and NATO,” the Estonian prime minister said. “Ukraine must continue its reforms and there is still a long and winding road ahead, but Estonia stands by Ukraine – we are here to help with our experience. I also promise to continue to be a strong advocate for Ukraine at the European Council table,” Kallas said.

Kallas said that “Russia will do everything this year to destroy the unity of the free world” when it comes to support for Ukraine. “In reality, we are stronger than Russia would have us believe. We have the upper hand, and the combined military, economic and political power of the free world can ensure Ukraine’s victory over Russian aggression. The stronger Ukraine is, the faster the breaking point for Russia will come,” she said.

The Estonian prime minister also said that hopes for a quick peace were “a trap”. “Russia would only use it to gather strength to attack even harder. We all want to live in peace, but it must be a just and lasting peace. Estonia supports and actively participates in President Zelensky’s peace plan, which focuses on territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine,” she said.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, meeting the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, at Stenbock House in Tallinn on 11 January 2024. Photo by Raul Mee.

Estonia will lead a working group of the Ukrainian Peace Formula that will focus on finding solutions in the United Nations to a situation where an aggressor with veto power has made the entire world order vulnerable. “In the discussions of the working group, we will focus on the possibilities of the UN Charter to overcome the deadlock in the Security Council in order to respond effectively to Russian aggression,” the Estonian prime minister noted.

Estonia has given €1.2 billion to Ukraine

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale aggression in February, Estonia has supported Ukraine politically, economically and militarily – and provided the necessary humanitarian aid. Estonia also supports Ukraine’s integration into the EU and NATO.

Estonia’s financial assistance to Ukraine totals €1.2 billion, including €316 million in civilian aid and €900 million in military aid. Estonia’s long-term military assistance to Ukraine will amount to 0.25 per cent of the Estonian GDP over the next four years.

The first Javelin anti-tank missiles, donated by Estonia, arrived in Ukraine on 18 February 2022. Photo by Estonian Defence Forces.

Volodymyr Zelensky is the sixth president of Ukraine. He was previously a comedian and actor. Born into a Ukrainian Jewish family, Zelensky grew up in the Dnipropetrovsk region of central Ukraine and is a native Russian speaker.

From Tallinn, the Ukrainian president flew to Riga, the Latvian capital.

See also our special blog on Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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