Internal Security Service deputy director: No fifth column in Estonia

Flags at a May 9 parade in Tallinn.
Flags at a May 9 parade in Tallinn. Source: Sander Koit/ERR

Speaking on "Vikerhommik" morning radio program on Wednesday, Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) Deputy Director General Martin Arpo said that there is no fifth column in Estonia that could pose a potential threat to Estonia's security.

"There's no such fifth column in that sense in Estonia," Arpo said. "Yes, there are pro-Kremlin individuals. There are also some smaller groups. They don't actually have any broader influence in society."

The deputy director general said that there have always been provocateurs worth monitoring, but there have been no signs indicating that their support numbers have grown. "What is clear is that in the current situation, their activity needs to be monitored more closely as well," he added.

Speaking about events in Estonia expected to mark Victory Day on May 9, Arpo said that these should be taken easy.

"We shouldn't get ahead of these events," he said. "First we have to look at what direction these developments are taking. There's no sense in rushing with bans that may not be needed. Rather, there are still signs that the number of pro-Kremlin people is slowly falling."

According to the deputy chief, in cases where people display insignia and symbols inciting war, it needs to be explained to them that doing so can cause tensions in society.

Arpo: Positive influencing of Russia has not worked

Arpo wrote on Kapo's homepage on Tuesday that Russia's current behavior indicates that people who have gone to study and work in the West have had a greater impact on Western countries' naive friendliness toward Russia than on Russian friendliness toward the West.

"Vikerhommik" host Kirke Ert noted that there are people who believe that the decision not to allow university students from Russia and Belarus to study at Estonian universities will further inhibit the opportunity for a democratic world to develop in Russia.

"Of course — such an approach through openness is always such a European way of thinking, and there is surely a lot of truth to it," Arpo said. "But the reality in Russia and how Russian society functions, how information spreads or doesn't spread in Russian society, is a bit different than that. And practice is the criterion of truth. This 30 years of experience indicates that this positive influencing of Russia this way has not been successful."

Priit Kuusk, the other program host, asked whether Estonia is essentially also punishing those who aren't guilty of anything and who actually hate the Putin regime.

"The restriction of entry isn't a punishment," the ISS deputy chief said. "It is a preventive measure for every country."

Arpo highlighted the potential erosion of solidarity and unity as among the biggest security risks currently facing Estonia.

"The biggest security risk would be the erosion of EU and NATO unity and the erosion of anti-war solidarity in these countries' societies and the erosion of the will to defend as well," he said. "Right now we're nonetheless not seeing such trends."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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