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Russian embassy: Change of Estonian government not led to thaw in relations

Russian Embassy on Pikk tänav in Tallinn.
Russian Embassy on Pikk tänav in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn has said the new Estonian government does not so far seem to want to improve relations with Moscow.

A statement the embassy issued Tuesday noted that: "Unfortunately, since the new government's first days in office, statements have been heard to the effect that there are no grounds for improving relations with Russia, accompanied by cliched arguments about a threat originating from the Russian Federation."

The Reform/Center coalition headed by Kaja Kallas (Reform) entered office last month.

The embassy says the same attitude can be found among MPs: "who, on February 15 adopted a statement in that tone," referring to a speech made by foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Reform) before the Riigikogu Tuesday.

This in turn followed a recent, widely-panned trip to Moscow by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier this month.

"As a single new aspect, criticism of the EU's foreign and security policy chief [Josep] Borrell for his visit to Moscow was expressed. All the rest is painfully familiar," the statement continues, noting around two-thirds of MPs actually took part in the vote at the Riigikogu, with three opposing the motion and one abstaining.

EU-Russia relations not good since 2014

The Riigikogu statement exacerbates an already tense situation, the embassy added.

The current climate of EU-Kremlin relations has remained largely constant since 2014, the year that the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russia following a referendum, and ongoing insurgency conflict in eastern Ukraine began.

The EU last imposed sanctions on Russia last October in the wake of opposition leader Alexei Navalny's poisoning while on an internal domestic flight. The sanctions took the form of frozen assents and visa bans on various Russian officials.

Navalny returned to his home land last month, but was immediately detained on arrival. Navalny had a suspended jail sentence to his name following an earlier conviction for embezzlement. This was recently converted to real prison time by a Russian court, who handed him a three-and-a-half year sentence (about a year of which was reckoned to already have been served at an earlier time, when Navalny had been under house arrest)

Embassy points to Putin World Economic Forum appearance

A speech at the World Economic Forum last month by President Vladimir Putin saw the Russian leader call for a renunciation of past phobias, the embassy statement continued, and add that Russia is ready for better relations with Europe despite differences.

The same would apply to bilateral Russia-Estonian relations, the embassy says, while the formation of a new government was one logical juncture at which this could happen.

The Rigiikogu statement on the other hand was successful in stirring up further Russophobia and a continued negative narrative, the embassy added.

A member of the new coalition, foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets, said at Tuesday's Riigikogu speech that security was the main focus for foreign policy in the coming year, with an emphasis on western unity – which would include a strong transatlantic bond and NATO membership, as well as European cooperation post-Brexit, and continued strong relations with the U.K.

Estonian foreign minister: Bilateral relations with Russia should not be viewed as distinct from relations between whole of EU and Russia, NATO and Russia

Estonian-Russian relations plugged into this, Liimets added, and could not be viewed in isolation.

Liimets had also called Russia's foreign policy aggressive and expressed concern over the abandonment of democratic values and attempts to influence Europe's security, though she, too, expressed interest in having good relations with Russia.

Concerns over the situation in Ukraine and Belarus, as well as Russia itself, would also still be raised at the UN Security Council (UNSC), where Estonian is in its second year (of two) as a non-permanent member. The Russian Federation is a permanent member.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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