Baltic nations protests Russia’s list of wanted politicians

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 5:58 AM

By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) -Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania issued diplomatic protests on Wednesday to Moscow after Russian police put leading Baltic politicians on a wanted list over the destruction of Soviet-era monuments.

The three Baltic states were once ruled from Moscow but are now members of the European Union and NATO, and since the Russian invasion in Ukraine have emerged as staunch supporters of Ukraine and vocal critics of Russia.

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and State Secretary Taimar Peterkop were both on the police wanted list, as were Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys and some 60 current and former members of Latvia’s parliament, according to Russia.

Russian state agency TASS said on Tuesday that the Baltic officials were accused of “destroying monuments to Soviet soldiers”, acts that are punishable by a five-year prison term under the Russian criminal code.

Latvia’s foreign ministry in a statement said it was working with the EU to address the matter, and was seeking to mitigate any risk to the country’s nationals.

“The ministry… will continue to sustain, with EU and NATO partners and with other countries in the framework of international organisations, the issue of Russia’s politically motivated cases and extraterritorial targeting,” it added.

Lithuania meanwhile demanded that its politicians be removed from the list.

“These Russian decisions contradict the generally recognised norms of international law, show efforts to falsify the past and show disrespect to the historical memory of Lithuania,” the foreign ministry wrote.

Estonia in a statement said its diplomats had “expressed indignation” and demanded an explanation from the Kremlin.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also notified the representative of Russia that these steps by the Russian state will not stop us from doing the right thing and Estonia will not change its resolute support for Ukraine,” it added.

(Reporting By Andrius Sytas, writing by Louise Rasmussen and Terje Solsvik, editing by Barbara Lewis and Keith Weir)