Head of anti-money laundering authority the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Madis Reimand says that sanctions placed against Kremlin media outfit Rossiha Segodnya, and its subsidiary, news portal Sputnik, in Estonia are not surprising.
"Our objective is to fully comply with Estonian law and the sanctions imposed by the European Union," Reimand told ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera Friday.
"This means that if Rossiya Segodnya, which is controlled by Dmitry Kiselyov, against whom sanctions have been imposed, has assets in Estonia, they must be frozen and access must not be given to funds or economic resources, that is provide services that would enable Rossiya Segodnya to do business. When it comes to Estonia, this prohibition applies to people operating in the territory of Estonia," Reimand continued.
According to Reimand, Kiselyov's status is the only reason why sanctions are being imposed against Rossiya Segodnya; the move has met with criticism from the Russian Federation that it constitutes a clampdown on media freedoms, twinned with threats of retaliation.
As reported on ERR News, Duma (Russian parliament) speaker Valentina Matviyenko said that Russia will take reciprocal measures if the Estonian authorities continue its current policy toward Sputnik journalists by putting pressure on them, the TASS news agency reported on Thursday.
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told daily Postimees on Wednesday that Sputnik was founded in 2014 by Rossiya Segodnya (literally "Russia Today", not to be confused with RT, the international broadcaster, though both are Kremlin mouthpieces-ed.) as its international branch.
Director of Rossiya Segodnya Dmitry Kiselyov is on the EU list of sanctioned persons due to his central role in Russian propaganda in support of the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, by the Russian Federation and ongoing Russian military activity in eastern and southeastern Ukraine.
In late October, Estonian banks froze Rossiya Segodne/Sputnik bank accounts, on the basis of the sanctions, meaning around a month later Sputnik was no longer able to pay its office rent in Tallinn and had to leave the premises.
In December, the FIU contacted individuals who have an employment contract or employment relationship with Rossiya Segodnya to inform them that knowingly sanctioning or providing services to the organization could result in criminal liability.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs comment
The foreign ministry reiterated to ERR News Friday afternoon that Dmitri Kiselyov as a sanctioned person is subject to EU sanctions which in turn will affect Sputnik in Estonia, adding that this had no connection with obstructing media freedoms, with Rossiya Segodnya's TV channel and Sputnik's website in Estonia still open and functioning. The ministry also noted Estonia currently ranks 11th in the World Press Freedom index, while also stating that not all opinions should in and of themselves be regarded as journalism, and that the misuse of media freedoms to engage in hostile influence operations should be opposed. The ministy cited the Ethical Journalism Network as backing for that line.
The EU directive in question is Council Regulation (EU) No. 269/2014, with Article 2 pertaining to Kiselyov and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the ministry said.
Russia has petitioned both the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CoE), both of which it is a member of, over the matter.
Editor: Andrew Whyte