Estonia’s Prime Minister Kallas placed on wanted list of Russia

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas faces criminal charges from Russia for removing Soviet monuments from public spaces.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas faced criminal charges from Russian authorities on Tuesday, which she claimed were driven by political motives.

Russia’s state-run Tass news reported that the Kremlin alleged Kallas, Estonian Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop and Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys had harmed or destroyed Soviet monuments honoring Soviet soldiers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov verified the charges in a call with journalists but did not specify when the alleged crime occurred. By Wednesday, public officials from all three Baltic states were on the wanted list.

Kallas declared that Estonia would take down all of the country’s Soviet monuments from public spaces shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine almost two years ago.

Kallas seems to be the first head of state put on the Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted list by the Russian government since the invasion started. The move, however, is probably symbolic.

Kallas said on social media on Tuesday that the move was expected and evidence that she was “doing the right thing” by backing Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“Russia has always hidden its repressions behind so-called law enforcement agencies,” Kallas said, referring to the cases of her grandmother and mother, who she said were sent to Siberia after the KGB issued arrest warrants for them.

“The Kremlin now expects this move will quiet me and others – but it won’t. The opposite. I will keep up my strong support to Ukraine,” she said.

Latvia and Lithuania reacted by calling in their respective Russian ambassadors on Wednesday. Both countries’ foreign ministries made statements denouncing the move as politically motivated. Estonia called in Russia’s charges d’affaires to the country as well.

Estonia, a former part of the Soviet Union, joined the European Union and became a NATO member in 2004. NATO’s growth to Russia’s border has long irritated Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sees the alliance as a serious threat.

Putin’s choice to invade Ukraine caused great worry in Estonia that it could be next.

A report by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service said Russia might think about increasing the number of troops on its border with the Baltic countries and on its edge with Finland, which joined NATO last year.

When presenting the report, the service’s leader, Kaupo Rosin, said that Russia likely expects a conflict with the alliance in the next ten years, although he downplayed the chance that would happen in the form of military action.

“Estonia needs to get ready together with our allies. Our security and safety can be best guaranteed by Ukraine’s victory, Russia’s defeat and the end of Putin’s regime,” Rosin said.

Tallinn has also been a strong supporter of Europe spending more on its own defense. Responding to former US President Donald Trump’s remarks that, if reelected, he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member that doesn’t meet spending guidelines, Kallas said ”we have been pushing for doing more in defense, and that means all NATO’s members do more in defense”

“I think what the presidential candidate in America says is also something to maybe alert the allies who haven’t done that much, so hopefully we all do more and collectively we are stronger together,” she said at a news conference on Monday with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Estonia’s defense budget is set to rise to more than 3% of the country’s GDP for the first time this year, well above the 2% target NATO has set for members of the alliance.

Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna gave his annual foreign policy speech on Tuesday, which included strong anti-Russian comments and a full support for Ukraine.

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