Center Party chair and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas has condemned statements made by MP Mihhail Stalnuhhin's comments about the recent removal of a controversial Soviet-era tank monument from the eastern border town of Narva. Stalnuhhin in effect said the Estonian state as personified in the current government pursues a 'Nazi' ideology.
Ratas said that Stalnuhhin's expulsion from the Center Party would be discussed at board level.
In a video shared on social media, Stalnuhhin, who also sits in opposition on Narva's city council, said that the Estonian government had acted as nothing more than Nazis.
Ratas told ERR Saturday morning that: "What he said is completely wrong, and does not belong to our values space, which are held as important by the free, democratic world, by Estonia and by the Center Party. Such opinions have no place in the Center Party, neither today, nor in the future."
Speaking in Russian, Stalnuhhin said in the video that he considered those who took down the tank monument, as well as other memorials in Narva itself, were Nazis.
The tank was removed on August 17 by order of the state, in the wake of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and relocated to a war museum near Tallinn.
Stalnuhhin said: "I know only one force that wishes to take down everything dedicated to [Soviet] soldier-liberators – namely openly nazi fascists,"
"Regardless of how they may refer to themselves: As democrats, liberals, reformists, right-wingers - etc. To me, now, they are just ordinary fascists. They are fighting those who fought against nazism. And from that thought, that we live in a country where the official ideology is a pro-Nazi one, we all will have to get used to it," said Stalnuhhin.
Ratas called the comments incomprehensible. "Even in my mind's eye, it is difficult to imagine the logic behind such a statement. I can't comprehend it," he told ERR.
As to what, if any, measures might be applied to the MP, Ratas replied that: "The party doesn't really have any other sanctions, except those whereby an individual no longer belongs to the party. The decision to expel someone from the party, or not, is up to the party's board, but I am quite convinced that this is what we will discuss at board level.
In the 2019 Riigikogu elections, Stalnuhhin polled at 2,653 votes, in the Ida-Viru County constituency, second only to MEP Yana Toom and out of a total 13,700 votes for the party cast in Ida-Viru County, a traditional Center Party area of support.
Yana Toom: Stalnuhhin is electioneering
Yana Toom herself criticized Stalnuhhin for his words, noting that the video in question was not off-the-record but was highly considered, and saying that his actions amounted both to hate speech and to electioneering ahead of the March 2023 Riigikogu elections.
"I have often been critical of the government and probably will continue to be so. But I unequivocally condemn any labeling and incitement to hatred, especially when it is done by [other] politicians," Toom stated in a social media post on Saturday.
"As an experienced politician, Stalnuhhin very precisely identified a niche where he can step and did it in a cynical way, as always. I can see nothing but cynical rants here. Is [prime minister] Kaja Kallas a fascist? Is [social protection minister] Signe Riisalo? [health and labor minister] Peep Peterson? Well, no. None of them are, for sure. Does Stalnuhhin himself believe that they are fascists? Of course not. He uses this label, because he knows that such tags work better. Some will be fascists, others will be Putinistas, that much is clear. Who wins from all of this? Surely, the one applying the labels themselves," Toom went on.
Riigikogu MPs may also hold seats on local government, and around half of them do.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots