Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said two of his ministers have made the mistake of further politicizing the case of Eerik-Niiles Kross, an Estonian politician who is wanted by Russian authorities.
"We have essentially granted state protection to one individual - at least in the eye of the public - while investigations have not yet fully been carried out," Ansip said at a weekly government press conference today, in what was a change of tone from a previous statement by him. Namely, Ansip was among others who criticized the politicization of the case when Interpol recently published a warrant notice one day before local elections in which Kross was a major contender for the position of Tallinn mayor.
"Unfortunately, I have to name two Cabinet ministers here," Ansip said, referring to Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu and Interior Minister Ken-Marti Vaher. Reinsalu is the chairman of Kross's party, IRL, and recently appointed Kross as a political adviser.
Ansip continued: "Finding out the truth should be of primary importance to every government minister. Only after that come partisan interests, solidarity and everything else."
"The truth is the most important thing for me. Before that, I would tend not declare someone guilty or not guilty. In order for things to be clear, the investigation needs to be carried out," Ansip said.
"I understand those who don't consider it possible in the current situation to hand over the investigation to the Republic of Estonia, to our prosecutors. We have not behaved in the best manner possible. The question is how now to restore the trust that has been damaged," Ansip said.
Responding to the criticism, Reinsalu said, in comments to uudised.err.ee, that the matter should not in turn be internally politicized.
He pointed out that Estonian investigators currently have no reason to believe that there is veracity in the charges against Kross, who Russian authorities say helped organize the hijacking of a ship.
"Both Estonian politicians and the public should trust the work of our law enforcement agencies and should not cast suspicion on their objectiveness," Reinsalu said.
"There is no sense in making the Kross affair into an internal political affair. The Estonian government should base its actions on the principle that its citizens must be protected," he said.