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Thousands of ethnic Russians living in Estonia prepare to vote in European elections

Euronews
Euronews Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Magdalena Chodownik
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Euronews spoke with Russians living in Estonia who are eligible to vote in the EU elections about their priorities and challenges for the upcoming polls.

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Estonia is home to nearly 300,000 Russians who are actively participating in elections, including the upcoming European vote in June. Generally, they tend to vote for Russian-speaking candidates. 

MEP Jana Toom of the populist Estonian Centre Party (Renew Europe) is one of the most popular among candidates. Her supporters are rather pro-European and distance themselves from the Kremlin's actions and aims.

"The first thing we need is so-called political nations. We don't have it in Estonia. In Estonia, we measure it by DNA, so to speak. I absolutely refuse to make Russian-speaking children in Estonia responsible for what Putin is doing," Toom told Euronews.

At the same time, young Estonians from Russian backgrounds want to foster unity among ethnic groups within the country.

Maria Derlos, an ethnic Russian who will vote in the upcoming European elections, says the candidate she's going to vote for should also "represent and understand Russian speaking minority struggles, challenges, and opportunities, and doesn't just disregard it".

There are also pro-Russian voices in the country, like Aivo Peterson, a European Parliament candidate for the Together party who is now in prison.

"His party or movement is very, very friendly to Putin", says Anvar Samost, head of news at Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

"The irony is that the main candidate – or perhaps the only candidate for this party – is waiting in pre-trail detention because there is a charge against him for cooperating with the Russian special services," Samost explained.

However, not all Russians will have the opportunity to vote in the forthcoming European elections. Within the Russian diaspora in Estonia, there are those who, despite residing there for years, lack Estonian citizenship.

Watch Euronews' report in the video player above.

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