Ilves: the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia was our first priority

Toomas Hendrik Ilves

PHOTO: Jaanus Lensment

What's happening today in Ukraine only serves to prove how important it was to get the occupying Russian troops withdrawn from Estonia and how correct our behaviour was, said the President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, today at a rally to recall the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia on 31 August 1994.

The main challenge faced by our foreign policy in the first decade following re-independence was to push open the doors to the Western world and enter these doors, in order to avoid being pulled back into the Eastern sphere of influence, recalled President Ilves, who worked as Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States of America 20 years ago.

«To this end, the withdrawal of Russian troops was the first priority. The other important steps in this road were gaining entry to the European Council, World Trade Organisation, European Union and NATO. Today, we have achieved all this and we should never forget how hard we worked to reach these targets,» told the Head of State.

«Our biggest achievement was the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia, who only remained on in Paldiski for 13 months, not years. Considering Russia's more recent behaviour, more and more years would probably have begun to be added to the original deadline,» admitted President Ilves, as he thanked everyone for contributing to the positive outcome.

The Head of State recalled how a just a day after the agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia was signed in July 1994 by Lennart Meri and Boris Yeltsin, one of the newspapers in Estonia started its editorial with the following words: «We don't even have the read the agreement to realise that Estonia got shafted.»

«Instead, future generations can say: «We don't even have the read the agreement to say: thank God»!» told President Ilves to end his speech.

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