President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has said that authorities in Estonia are afraid of Russian journalists, Baltic News Service reports.
Quoting Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Putin said on Thursday that: "I am surprised by the events taking place in Estonia,", with reference to claims of being singled-out for mistreatment from the head of the Estonian branch of state news channel Sputnik, Elena Cherysheva.
Cherysheva informed Putin that Estonian banks had blocked Sputnik employees' bank accounts , that Estonia's secret services have pressured its employees to terminate rental accommodation contracts and also threatened them with criminal prosecution.
Putin's response was reportedly to call the above claims an astonishing display of cynicism which suggested Estonian authorities were afraid of Sputnik's activities and those of its staff, adding that this was part of a general hypocrisy on the part of "the west" in pointing the finger at Russia for curtailing media freedoms while doing the same itself.
"You [Sputnik] do a great deal, and the attempts to interfere with your work by the country's authorities must not go unnoticed," he said.
"It is vital to seek opportunities for journalists to work in those countries which are afraid of your information, of your influence," Putin continued, promising to do his best to support Russian journalists with legal measures.
As reported on ERR News, in late November sanctions against the related Kremlin channel Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) were behind the Russian state-controlled media portal Sputnik organization's moving out of its rental space in Tallinn, given Estonian banks do not accept Sputnik salary payments.
Editor: Andrew Whyte