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Estonian PM Says Visit to St.Petersburg Not Sign of Policy Shift Toward Russia

© AP Photo / Alessandra Tarantino / Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas - Sputnik International
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Wednesday, his upcoming visit to St. Petersburg does not signal a change in the country’s relations with Russia.

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TALLINN (Sputnik) — On April 8, Ratas and Secretary of State Heiki Loot will visit a church service in St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg, which is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the manifestation held by Estonian students and soldiers demanding autonomy in 1917.

"The trip to St. Petersburg only has one goal – to support the independence of Estonia, to support our people that every day work on creating Estonian state, and of course to express solidarity with the 40,000 Estonians that held the manifestation in Petrograd 100 years ago for Estonian autonomy," Ratas said in the parliament when asked if the trip to Russia could be seen by the European Union and NATO as a signal of a change in the country’s policy toward Russia.

The prime minister underlined that no official meetings were planned during the visit.

On April 8, 1917, 40,000 Estonians took part in a demonstration in Petrograd and called for Estonia to be granted the status of a self-governed autonomy. The demonstration started near the St. John’s Church and marched to the Tauride Palace. Following the Provisional Government’s decision to grant autonomy to Estonia, Autonomous Governorate of Estonia was created, which then declared independence in November 1918.

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The bilateral relation between Russia and Estonia deteriorated in 2014 amid the crisis in Ukraine. Estonia, which is part of the European Union, has introduced several rounds of anti-Moscow sanctions following Crimea reunification with Russia in 2014 and over Moscow's alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. Russia has repeatedly refuted the accusations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive and undermine global stability.

In February, General Director of the Estonian Information Board (the country’s foreign intelligence service) Mikk Marran said that Russia is the only country that could potentially be a threat to the sovereignty and independence of Estonia.

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