The Hamilton Spectator

WAR IN UKRAINE Estonia leader added to Russia’s wanted criminal list


Estonia’s prime minister has been put on a wanted list in Russia because of her efforts to remove Soviet-era Second World War monuments in the Baltic nation, officials said Tuesday as tensions between Russia and the West soar amid the war in Ukraine.

The name of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas appeared on the Russian Interior Ministry’s list of people wanted on unspecifie­d criminal charges. While independen­t Russian news outlet Mediazona first reported Tuesday that Kallas was on the list, it said she has been on it for months. The list includes scores of officials and lawmakers from other Baltic nations.

Russian officials said that Kallas had been put on the list because of her efforts to remove the Second World War monuments.

Kallas dismissed it as Moscow’s “familiar scare tactic.”

“Russia may believe that issuing a fictitious arrest warrant will silence Estonia,” she said. “I refuse to be silenced -— I will continue to vocally support Ukraine and advocate for the strengthen­ing of European defences.”

Estonia and fellow NATO members Latvia and Lithuania have pulled down monuments that are widely seen as an unwanted legacy of the Soviet occupation of those countries. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, numerous monuments to Red Army soldiers also have been taken down in Poland and the Czech Republic, a belated purge of what many see as symbols of past oppression.

Moscow has denounced those moves as desecratin­g the memory of Soviet soldiers who fell while fighting Nazi Germany.

The inclusion of Kallas — who has fiercely advocated for increased military assistance to Ukraine and stronger sanctions against Russia — appears to reflect the Kremlin’s effort to raise the stakes in the face of NATO and European Union pressure over the war.

“Estonia and I remain steadfast in our policy: supporting Ukraine, bolstering European defence, and fighting against Russian propaganda,” Kallas said, pointing to her family’s history of facing Soviet repression. “This hits close to home for me: My grandmothe­r and mother were once deported to Siberia, and it was the KGB who issued the fabricated arrest warrants.”

It’s the first time the Russian Interior Ministry has put a foreign leader on a wanted list. Estonian Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop and Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys also are on the list, which is accessible to the public, along with scores of officials and lawmakers from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

“This, of course, is a kind of reward for people who support Ukraine and support the fight of good against evil,” Lithuania Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergi­s said, adding that those on the list should be careful while travelling to third countries in the future.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Maria Zakharova confirmed that Kallas and Peterkop were on the list because of their involvemen­t in removing monuments.

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