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Russia places Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on wanted list

Estonia’s prime minister has been placed on a wanted list in Russia over his efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II monuments in the Baltic country, officials said Tuesday as tensions between Russia and the West are surging amid the war in Estonia. Ukraine.

Russian media reported Tuesday that Kaja Kallas’ name was on the Interior Ministry’s register of people wanted on criminal charges, but it was unclear when she was added to the list that also includes many officials and legislators from other Baltic countries.

The department did not specify the charges against Kallas, but other officials said the move was related to its efforts to remove World War II monuments. Estonia and other NATO members – Latvia and Lithuania – have sought to remove monuments widely seen as a legacy of the Soviet occupation of those countries. Moscow denounced these measures as a desecration of the memory of Soviet soldiers who fell fighting the Nazis.

The inclusion of Kallas – who fiercely defended increase in military assistance to Ukraine and tougher sanctions on Russia — appear to reflect the Kremlin’s efforts to up the ante in the face of pressure from NATO allies as the war approaches its two-year mark.

While this doesn’t mean much in practical terms since contacts between Russia and the West were frozen during the conflict, it comes at a time when NATO’s European members are increasingly concerned about how the US elections will affect the future of the alliance.

This is the first time that the ministry has included a foreign leader on a wanted list. Estonian State Secretary Taimar Peterkop and Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys are also on the publicly available list, alongside numerous officials and lawmakers from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

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

Asked about the move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that it was a response to the actions of Kallas and others who “took hostile steps towards the historical memory and of our country”.

Russia has laws criminalizing “Nazi rehabilitation” that include clauses punishing the desecration of war memorials, and the Russian Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigation agency, has a dedicated department for address allegations of “falsification of history” and “rehabilitation of Nazism”. », which has intensified its action since the start of the war, according to Mediazona, an independent Russian media which analyzed the list of wanted people on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said ridding Ukraine of far-right neo-Nazi groups is one of the central goals of his war there. Putin has provided no evidence to support his repeated claims that these groups have a decisive voice in shaping the country’s policies.

The move could also mark an attempt by Moscow to counter the arrest warrant issued last year against Putin by the International Criminal Court over the alleged expulsion of Ukrainian children to Russia.

There was no immediate reaction from Estonian authorities.

The Russian move comes at a time of growing tensions between NATO and Russia – and also growing concern among the alliance’s European members over the outcome of the US election.

Former US President Donald Trump revived The fears of NATO allies that he could allow Russia to expand its aggression on the continent if he returned to the White House.

“You haven’t paid?” You are offender? “Trump, the Republican favorite, recently said that he said an unidentified NATO member during his presidency. “No, I won’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You have to pay.’

The statement stands in stark contrast to US President Joe Biden’s pledge “to defend every inch of NATO territory” – as the alliance commits all its members to do in the event of attack.

Trump’s statement shocked many people in Europe, leading to commitments from the governments of Poland, France and Germany to strengthen Europe’s security and defense power.

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