Anti-masker detained in connection with attack on senior doctor released

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PPA vehicle (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

A well-known anti-masker and critic of coronavirus restrictions was detained by police in relation to Wednesday's attack on a senior doctor overnight Thursday to Friday. He has since been released.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) detained Andrei Vesterinen, a lawyer, on Thursday evening, in relation to an attack on Peep Talving, head of the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) which took place the evening before.

"Yesterday, the police detained a 36-year-old man and verified any involvement in the attack on the PERH chief physician," the PPA said.

The development, authorities said earlier om Friday, should not be taken to imply Vesterinen himself conducted the attack, which took place while Talving was sitting inside his car outside PERH at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, and during which a liquid was thrown at him. The PPA has since said that Vesterinen is no longer a suspect in the attack.

Urmet Tambre, head of criminal investigation at the PPA's North Prefecture, said Thursday that: "Tentative information provides grounds to believe that the attack was not accidental, meaning that the perpetrator was lying in wait for the victim and had prepared for the attack."

Tambre said the PPA were examining security camera footage of the incident, after which Talving, who did not sustain any reported injuries, found one of his car's tires had been punctured. The assailant fled the scene immediately after the attack.

Police are asking any members of the public who have any information about the incident, or the individual in the yellow, hi-vis jacket seen in the security video below (attack not shown), to contact them on +372 56904272 or by e-mail.  

Liquid thrown at Talving reportedly urine

While Tambre added that the liquid used in the attack was being analyzed, ERR's online news in Estonian reports that the substance in question was in fact urine.

ERR attempted to contact Vesterinen by cellphone at noon Friday but was unable to get through, while as of around 2.30 p.m. authorities said that more information on the investigation's progress would be forthcoming later Friday afternoon.

Vesterinen, partner in a Tallinn law firm of the same name, told ERR's Russian-language TV channel ETV+ show "Kto, Kogo" late November that he was preparing to bring an action against the requirement to wear face-masks, applied in public transport, shopping malls and other crowded, indoor public areas, either individually or on behalf of a non-profit organization.

Vesterinen recently held a lengthy phone conversation with Professor Irja Lutsar, head of the government's COVID-19 scientific advisory council, on the matter, at a time when Lutsar said she was receiving numerous threatening online messages. The prime minister has called such attacks "shameful" and "low".

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik said earlier Friday that the PPA has drafted measures to protect the members of the scientific council from threats, in the wake of the verbal attacks on Lutsar and the physical one on Talving.

This piece was updated to report Vesterinen's release and to include security footage.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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