ISS: Rise of extremism in Estonia continues to be of concern

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Screenshot from a self-made anti-EU video made by far right extremist Kristo Kivisto.

Rising radicalization and the propagation of extremist and terrorist ideologies are concern for the Internal Security Service (ISS), the organization says in its 2020/2021 yearbook, which published Monday. Quelling the problem before it gets out of hand is essential, and the issue is one which society as a whole must be aware of, the authority said.

The risks include covert activities, the ISS says, and take in both far right and far left groups.

The problem is exacerbated by the presence of social media, which is helping to foster an emerging, new generation of extremists, the ISS says.

The ISS yearbook reported that: "A new generation of extremists is emerging. Regardless of their right-wing or left-wing views, the ISS is interested in instigators of violence in whose case there is reason to believe crimes of physical violence may be committed." (Page 2 of the ISS report in English).

ISS: Threats come from left as well as from right

The report came just a day after non-violent clashes in Tallinn's Freedom Square (Vabaduse väljak) took place between anti-lockdown protestors and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA). Several people were detained during the day's events.

The yearbook from the ISS, also colloquially known as the KaPo, an abbreviation of the organization's name in Estonian (Kaitsepolitseiamet), also states that: "The left- and right-wing extremist movements differ in content, but they have many similarities in form. The ideology of both sides rationalizes a conflict." (Page 15 of the ISS 2020/2021 Yearbook, English-language version).

"In general, these are angry young men – often little more than boys – who get themselves worked up in the echo chambers of social networks and vow to change the world through violence. Some radicals believe that societal order is falling apart and will be followed by a race war. For their part, they will
do their best to help shape such a future. violence are punishable in Estonia and in an ideal world must be stopped before people turn words into deeds. It does not always work out this way, in which case it is the courts that give their assessment of the punishability of a particular act," the ISS report continues.

ISS: Lithuania planned attack illustrates issue relates to Baltic States

The police must be made aware of proclamations of violence or the presence of people making such threats, the ISS says, with extremist insignia or displays also being obvious red flags.

The proximity of potential threats is demonstrated by the October 2019 planned terror attack in Lithuania, with one Estonian member of school age of the organization referred to by the would-be attacker, neo Nazi group the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), issuing a handwritten manifesto, as well as discussing potential copycat attacks in Estonia, with the Social Democratic Party (SDE), LGBT+ events or organizations, or the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) itself earmarked as potential targets.

The boy was in fact parroting existing texts, but the anonymous nature of social media both hoodwinked many adults into thinking he was a leading figure among the far right and helped him keep his extremist interests and radicalization hidden from public view.

In the event, his potential intentions were nipped in the bud, the ISS said, though the actions of another young man, Kristo Kivisto (depicted in cover image), led to proceedings following racist, anti-semitic and anti-LGBT+ hate speech online in Estonia, which the ISS says can lead to potentially serious consequences even when presented in apparently jocular form. Kivisto had taken part in demonstrations along similar lines outside of Estonia, the ISS says.

ISS: More public discussion needed

Other areas of interest to far right groups online include combat and survival training, the ISS says, with impressionable youth providing a well-spring of potential recruits. At the same time, only a minority of youth are even remotely interested in such themes, the ISS adds, with most put off by the idea of violence.

Other important remedies, the ISS says, include a broader public debate on fundamental rights and obligations, as well as law-abiding behavior during legitimate protests and demonstrations.

Ultimately, all institutions and societal groups need to come together to deal with the issue of extremism, the ISS wrote.

"Every member of society has a responsibility to inform people or groups who call for support for violent extremism," the yearbook states.

The full 2020/2021 ISS Yearbook in English is available at the bottom of this article.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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