Estonia has expressed readiness to extradite Ukrainian men of conscription age who fled to the country following the outbreak of full-scale war in Ukraine. This move is aimed at supporting Ukraine's effort to bolster its forces, as stated by Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets from the Social Democratic Party.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense plans to recall men who escaped military service by fleeing the country, intending to replace battle-weary soldiers. While Ukraine's counteroffensive seems to be stalling, President Volodymyr Zelensky has indicated the need for an additional 500,000 soldiers, prompting a search for Ukrainians who fled abroad since the war began. Unlike Germany, which has declined to assist in this matter, Estonia is willing to cooperate.
Läänemets mentioned that the Estonian government generally knows the whereabouts and activities of these individuals, many of whom are employed and have residences in Estonia. Although no formal request has been received from Ukraine, the Estonian Ministry of the Interior has repeatedly reached out to the Ukrainian ambassador and the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, signaling their willingness to inform about the refugees in Estonia.
A written proposal to formalize an agreement between the two countries is expected from Läänemets in the coming days. Currently, the extradition of foreigners to their home country is possible only if the person is criminally liable.
Indrek Kannik, Director of the International Centre for Defence and Security, noted that one factor possibly motivating some Ukrainians to return is the potential scrutiny of their whereabouts during the war once it ends. Igor Taro, a military expert and member of the Estonian parliament from the Eesti 200 party, questioned the rationale behind pursuing individuals who left the country, pointing out that many refugees have already returned to Ukraine, and that men constituted a small fraction of those who initially fled.
Over 7,000 Ukrainian men of conscription age have sought temporary protection in Estonia.