Two detained in Estonia on suspicion of Sputnik-related sanctions violation

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Internal Security Service (ISS) signage at the authority's Tallinn headquarters.
Internal Security Service (ISS) signage at the authority's Tallinn headquarters. Source: ERR

The Internal Security Service (ISS) on Wednesday detained two people under suspicion of the violation of international sanctions. The suspicions relate to the Kremlin-controlled Sputnik portal, which is banned in Estonia and the European Union.

Chief state prosecutor Taavi Pern stressed that the criminal case investigates illicit economic connections forbidden by international sanctions in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Pern said: "The EU imposed sanctions in response to international crimes committed against the state of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Violating these sanctions is a crime against peace."

"This investigation does not assess or evaluate content posted to the aforementioned media platform," Pern continued, according to an ISS press release.

The ISS, also known by its Estonian acronym Kapo, detained on Wednesday a 43-year-old named Elena and a 50-year-old named Mati-Dmitri, on suspicion of crimes against peace, namely violating international sanctions, the ISS said.

The suspects full names cannot be disclosed under Estonian law.

The pair are suspected, on the basis of evidence gathered, of having used web-based media platform Sputnik Meedia to provide a sanctioned individual with economic resources worth in excess of €350,000.

The activities date back to 2021, the ISS says, adding that the funds are suspected to have originated in the Russian Federation.

The suspects, Elena and Mati-Dmitri, also kept the media platform Sputnik Meedia active online, in defiance of EU sanctions issued on March 1, 2022, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

ISS spokesperson Harrys Puusepp said of the incident that: "International sanctions are essential in restoring peace in Ukraine, which has been undermined by Russia since 2014"

"Unfortunately, in addition to crimes against peace, for more than a month the Kremlin and Russian armed forces have been escalating the situation via war crimes and crimes against humanity," Puusepp added.

"Investigating crimes against peace and sanction violations is a priority for the Estonian government. We use all means provided by the law in fighting crimes against peace. We want the preliminary investigation to be carried out as thoroughly and effectively as possible," he continued.

Criminal proceedings are being conducted by the ISS, under the direction of the Prosecutor's Office.

The criminal suspicion is based on § 93 of the Estonian Penal Code.

One of the suspects is Isamaa member

News portal Delfi (link in Estonian) named the suspects as Elena (or Jelena) Cherysheva, 43,  and Mati-Dmitri Terestal, 51.

Terestal is, according to the Commercial Register, a member of opposition party Isamaa.

Isamaa spokesperson Karl Sander Kase told ERR that: "People whos actions justify or aid Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine have no place in the Isamaa party."

"Isamaa's chair has proposed to the party board that this member be expelled from the party," he added.

ERR reports that commercial register data puts Mati-Dmitri Terestal's date of birth at May 5 1971, and states that he has been a member of Isamaa since 2004 – joining the party's forerunner, Res Publica, in that year and remaining when the party merged with Pro Patria Union, to become IRL, rebranded in 2018 as Isamaa.

Isamaa is an avowedly national-conservative party; its name, literally translated, means "Fatherland".

Pro-Kremlin media sites Sputnik, formerly known as Voice of Russia and as RIA Novosti, and Russia Today (RT), were banned in the EU in late February, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

More information in English on Sputnik's activities in Estonia is here (article from June 2021).

Editor's note: This article was updated to include information on the full names of the suspects and details on the Isamaa membership of Mati-Dmitri Terestal.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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