Russia has placed the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, a member of NATO, on a criminal wanted list
Estonia’s prime minister has been placed on Russia’s most wanted list over her efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II relics from the Baltic country, officials said Tuesday, as tensions rise between Russia and the West amid the war in Ukraine.
Russian media reported on Tuesday that Kaja Kalas’ name appears on the Interior Ministry’s register of people wanted on criminal charges, but it was not clear when she was added to the list, which also includes dozens of officials and lawmakers from other Baltic states.
The ministry did not specify the charges Callas faces, but other officials said the move was related to her efforts to remove traces of World War II.
Estonia and other NATO member states – Latvia and Lithuania – have sought to remove monuments that are widely seen as a legacy of the Soviet occupation of these countries. Moscow denounced these moves, describing them as a desecration of the memory of Soviet soldiers who fell while fighting the Nazis.
The inclusion of Kalas – who has strongly called for increased military aid to Ukraine and tougher sanctions against Russia – appears to reflect the Kremlin’s efforts to up the ante in the face of pressure from NATO allies as the war approaches its second year.
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The first foreign leader on the list
While this does not mean much in practical terms as communications between Russia and the West were frozen during the conflict, it comes at a time when European members of NATO are increasingly concerned about how the US elections will affect the future of the alliance.
This is the first time that the Russian Ministry has placed a foreign leader on the wanted list. Estonian Foreign Minister Temar Petrkop and Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kaires are also on the list, which is available to the public, along with dozens of officials and lawmakers from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that Kalas and Petercop were put on the list due to their involvement in removing the antiquities.
Asked about the move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that it was a response to the actions of Kalas and others who “took hostile measures towards historical memory and our country.”
Russia has laws criminalizing “Nazi rehabilitation,” which include provisions penalizing the desecration of war memorials. Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigative agency, has a dedicated department to deal with alleged “falsification of history” and “Nazi rehabilitation,” and has intensified its work since the beginning of the war, according to independent newspaper Mediazona. A Russian news outlet analyzed the wanted list on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that ridding Ukraine of far-right and neo-Nazi groups is one of the main goals of his war there. Putin has provided no evidence to support his repeated claims that such groups have a decisive voice in shaping the country’s policies.
The move could also represent an attempt by Moscow to counter the arrest warrant issued last year against Putin issued by the International Criminal Court Regarding allegations of deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.
There was no immediate reaction from the Estonian authorities.
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Trump’s comments put NATO’s future in the spotlight
The Russian move comes at a time of escalating tensions between NATO and Russia, as well as growing concern among the European members of the alliance about the results of the US elections.
Former US President Donald Trump has renewed fears among NATO allies that he may allow Russia to expand its aggression on the continent if he returns to the White House.
Trump, the Republican front-runner, recently said: “Why did you pay? Are you late on your payments?” He said he told an unnamed NATO member during his presidency. “No, I won’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. “You have to pay.”
This statement contrasts sharply with US President Joe Biden’s pledge to “defend every inch of NATO territory” – which the alliance commits all members to in the event of attack.
Trump’s statement shocked many in Europe, as the governments of Poland, France and Germany pledged to strengthen Europe’s security and defense strength.
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