Russians plant flowers in burnt-out tanks in Baltic city

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Burnt-out Russian tanks seized by Ukrainian forces last year were recently displayed in the Baltic capitals for Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to see and photograph them. are gathering. I feel sorry for Ukrainians who defend their homeland.

But those who have visited the tanks include a significant number of members of the Russian ethnic minority in the country, some of whom also mourn fallen Russian soldiers and express their support for Moscow. Some offered flowers and lit candles for the deceased.

Russian gesture of support for the Russian side in war It caused some controversy, and at least one fist fight took place in Vilnius. This highlights growing tensions in the Baltics between the Baltic majority and a sizeable Russian minority.

On Wednesday, supporters and opponents of the war quarreled in front of a burned-out Russian T-72 tank that was attacked by Ukrainian forces near Kiev on March 31. The tank is located on Liberty Square in the center of the Estonian capital, a space decorated in Ukrainian. And the Estonian flag and where the Ukrainian national anthem was heard from the nearby St. John’s Church.

The Estonian Defense Ministry on Saturday called the tank “a symbol of Russia’s brutal aggression”. It also shows that the aggressor can be defeated. Help Ukraine defend its freedom. “

Following a similar display last week, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced that the tank would be on display in the Baltic capitals and in Berlin as a museum exhibit. in poland And last year the Czech Republic.

Anatoly Yarkov, a 78-year-old former Soviet military veteran who came to see tanks in Tallinn, said he was bitter about Ukraine fighting Russia in the war that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. rice field.

“Russian tanks are burning again as they did during the war with the Nazis,” Yarkov said. “The Russian people have always been against the Nazis, no matter what flag they use.

Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, say that despite the fact that a Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust is in Ukraine and heads a Western-backed, democratically elected government, Moscow’s military is a neo-Nazi. They have spread the false narrative that they are fighting.

Some Russians left flowers in tanks in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, prompting city officials to set up trash cans nearby that read “For flowers, candles and Soviet nostalgia.”

Not all Russians are on Moscow’s side.

Marina, a 60-year-old Russian citizen who did not give her last name for security reasons, condemned the Ukrainian aggression and praised the Ukrainians for fighting back.

“This Russian tank could have penetrated the Estonian city of Narva, which Putin may have declared a Russian city,” she said, adding that her children and grandchildren have Estonian citizenship. “And I fully understand that only the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians saved my children from the bloody scenario unfolding in Estonia.”

Also visiting the tanks are Ukrainian refugees from the war.

Anastasia Orezhko, 18, who fled when Russian tanks opened fire in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, said: “

“How can I feel about it?” she cried.

In Berlin, tanks also became a place of homage. Pro-Russian sympathizers placed red roses on destroyed tanks on display in front of the Russian embassy. The rose was eventually removed. The Russian embassy denied having organized the flower arrangement, but said it welcomed “a heartfelt gesture by German citizens and German compatriots”.


Vanessa Gera reports from Warsaw, Poland. Frank Jordans contributed to this report from Berlin.


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