Prime minister to BBC: Russia diplomat expulsion a new phenomenon

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Prime minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says that given Estonia's location and history, tensions in relations with the Russian Federation will always exist, though events surrounding the expulsion of diplomats in both directions and by other countries are a recent phenomenon, daily Postimees reports.

Kallas appeared on the BBC politics talk show Hardtalk Monday, Postimees reports (link in Estonian), in an interview with Stephen Sackur which focussed mainly on Russia and the recent expulsion of diplomats in solidarity with the Czech Republic which, the prime minister said, was a new development in comparison with incursions into Estonia's airspace by Russian military planes, which she says is a common occurrence.

On being asked about the so-called "gray passport" holders in Estonia – residents of the country but citizens neither of it, nor of the Russian Federation nor anywhere else – Kallas said that the people had all right sextended to citizens bar the right to vote in Riigikogu elections, while this needed to be balanced against the need to protect the Estonian language, given obtaining Estonian citizenship is contingent on passing a language exam.

Referring to opposition party the Conservative people's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which has been gaining on Reform in recent support polls and is now neck-and-neck with Center, Reform's coalition partner, Kallas called the phenomenon a protest vote whose ceiling is around the 20 percent it currently has nearly reached.

Showing solidarity with the Czech Republic, following reports that a 2014 explosion at an ammunition dump which killed two people was the work of Russian agents, was key, Kallas reiterated, while the attack on the Estonian language, twinned with a need for maintaining Russian-language misinformation broadcasts in Estonia, is evidenced by the fact that Russia recently placed the head of the Estonian language inspectorate, Ilmar Tomusk, on its entry blacklist.

The full Postimees article (in Estonian) is here, while the BBC Hardtalk segment, which also discussed NATO and its forces' presence in Estonia, is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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