News / Europe

Q&A with Estonian Amb. Marina Kaljurand: Ukraine Must be Supported

VOA's Carol Castiel (L) and Estonia's Amb. to the US Marina Kaljurand (R)
VOA's Carol Castiel (L) and Estonia's Amb. to the US Marina Kaljurand (R)
VOA News
The situation in Ukraine continued to escalate Tuesday as the Ukrainian military began an operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country. Estonia and other Baltic states with sizable Russian-speaking minority populations have been watching the rapidly unfolding events with concern.

Marina Kaljurand, Estonia’s ambassador to the United States, has been Estonia’s envoy to Washington since 2011. She was Estonia's ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, among other posts.

Kaljurand discussed the crisis in Ukraine from Estonia’s point of view with VOA’s Carol Castiel.
Castiel:  How does your country – Estonia – view what is going on in Ukraine? First, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and now it’s backing of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine?

Kaljurand: Being EU and NATO members, we share the views of these organizations. For us, there’s no question about Russia violating international law with its annexation of Crimea. Also, the events in eastern Ukraine are clearly sponsored or supported by Russia. The recent events have not only changed Europe, but changed the world. What’s happening there does not correspond with any international norms we’ve lived with since the Second World War.

Castiel: Tell me about the Russian speaking population in Estonia.

Kaljurand: Russian speakers are about a quarter of the population. I’m Russian. I speak Russian with my mother and I don’t need protection. I’m an Estonian citizen, I live in Estonia and I’m Estonian ambassador. So, for me, there’s a huge difference between those Russians who have lived for centuries in Estonia, who are part of the everyday life of the country. And then there are Soviets, who were brought, or came, into the country during the Soviet occupation and whose understanding may be slightly different. Some see Estonia as their home. But there’s a small part who share the views of Mr. Putin that the fall of Soviet Union was a geo-political catastrophe and who don’t accept Estonia as an independent country.

Castiel: What is your assessment of NATO’s and the EU’s response to the situation?

Kaljurand: The situation is developing very rapidly. NATO is taking the situation very seriously. Stopping all military to military cooperation with Russia is a very specific act. NATO understands how serious [the situation] is and is acting appropriately. As to the EU, [it] is taking the situation very seriously. Visa bans have been implemented and we are looking ahead to a possible scenario if Russia doesn’t stop putting Ukraine under huge pressure – with forces on the border, provocateurs in the country – basically doing whatever it can to destabilize Ukraine.

Castiel: Ukraine is caught between a rock and a hard place. If the Ukrainian government reacts passively to the Russian-backed Russian separatists they would be criticized as not defending their own interests and inviting more Russian aggression. But if they act, Russia can say they are being provoked. What is your take on the Ukrainian government’s response?

Kaljurand: The government has so far been very measured and calm. We have to support them politically, with visits and dialogue. We have to show them we are not going to impose any outside decisions over the heads of the Ukrainian people, like what happened in Yalta [after WWII]. They have the right to make their own decisions themselves. We must support them economically… That’s why the EU is promoting trade with Ukraine. We are encouraging them to prepare for the upcoming May 25 elections. That’s the answer – show the world that Ukraine is doing its part… Yes, Russia is doing everything it can to ensure the May 25 elections do not take place. We must [counter this] by sending monitors, election monitors, to be present on the ground, to show [Russia] that you cannot deceive us.

Castiel:  How do you combat the propaganda that Russia is disseminating about Ukraine?

Kaljurand: It’s a very difficult question. I absolutely agree with you that Russian propaganda is strong. There is almost no free media left in Russia. A part of the Estonian population – along the border – is under the influence of Russian media. And it’s the same for the Russian-speaking regions of other neighboring [Baltic] countries. We have to tell our narrative. We have to say what’s really happening, to answer lies with facts. It’s not easy. But doing nothing will not change anything either. OSCE monitors are in eastern Ukraine. They report daily and have said nothing about any human rights violations against any religious or other minority groups. The Russian propaganda machine has been working quite effectively since the beginning of the Soviet Union. We must counter it.

Castiel:  To what extent are ordinary Russians buying this propaganda? Can they see through it or are they being brainwashed by this type of narrative?

Kaljurand: There’s a big difference between the Russian-speaking population in Estonia and in Russia. In Estonia we have alternative channels, Russian-language programs on television, radio. Internet is free. Russia, [on the other hand], is a television country. The majority of Russians get their information from television which is totally state-controlled. So, yes, in that sense, the Russian population is brainwashed. There are a couple relatively free radio stations but their audience is relatively small. The Internet is relatively free, but [the number of news consumers] there is relatively small. So, I do think the majority believes what they see on TV, believes Putin is doing the right thing, and, yes, I think the majority of them are brainwashed.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Popsiq from: Buganda
April 16, 2014 7:49 AM
What bullshit. The only news sources with any credibility seem to be the rogues like Vice news - although somebody with an opinion owns that too. Raw footage from Utube (again with ownership principles applied) while exactly that, raw, gives some lie to the garbage 'reality' the western media is feeding us.

And that goes for the'free press' of gallant little Estonia too.

Where was all the 'concern' for Ukraine seven years ago when Yanukovich won his first election or a year aand a half ago when Ukrianains elected him again, twice?

Estonia, and NATO are dancing to a tune that was written in the boardrooms of America.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs