Estonian youngsters attend Russian ideological-military camps


ETV's investigative television program, "Pealtnägija", revealed on Wednesday how ethnic Russian pupils from Estonia are taking part of Russian youth camps, which aim to ensure their allegiance to the Kremlin.

Estonian internal security services (KAPO) draw attention to those camps in their 2013 yearly report, using the camps as a vivid example of Russia's continued glorification of the Soviet history.

The camps are organized in cooperation of Russian federal agencies, the Ministry of Defense, security forces and media outlets. The organizers are also closely connected to the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.

The camps, which celebrate the Soviet victory in the World War II, run with the slogan of the "Friendship of Peoples". However, the real objective of the camp is believed to be something different.

"This is obviously no friendship and tolerance camp but an active attempt to root aggressive military thinking. If you look at the ideology, the weapons and the young age of the participants, it all forms an alarming mix," said Andres Kahar of the Estonian Internal Secret Service Police, KAPO.

Latvian security police reported last year that the youth, who come from all over the former Soviet states, get a boy-scout style military training, ideological lectures and demonstrations of Russia's military might.

The numerous reports in the Russian news programs show that the participants are, for example, thought how to kill a man with a knife.

"Pealtnägija" reported that the last "Union" camp that took place in Kyrgyzstan this summer, and was attended by 10 children from Estonia. The group was led by a physical education teacher, who works for one of the four schools where the attending children study.

The Minister of Education Jevgeni Ossinovski and the school officials deplored the participation but agreed that there is little that can be done - in a free country, people are free to decide where they send their children for the school holidays.

The fact that the camps have an ideological effect is demonstrated by a Facebook post by a student from a school in Tallinn. The boy, who graduated from the ninth grade this spring, poses on a picture with his comrades and a Kalashnikov rifle. In the caption he says he in Ukraine, "killing moronic fascists". A later comment specifies that he was actually in the camp.

"Can we reproach the children for it? Young people are not necessarily aware of where they are going. It all looks so attractive: a trip to a far-away country, a fun camp and a chance to meet others like you. But the grown-ups, the teachers, they should have a better grasp of the nature of such things," Kahar said.

He added that Estonia is a free country, prohibitions and stonewalling are not an option here. "People have to be made aware of what the dangers are and what it actually means to attend those camps."

"Pealtnägija" video report (in Estonian) can be watched here.

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