The government agreed on an exceptional payment last week to cover the cost of approximately 4,000 delayed Russian pensions of people living in Estonia — but it will not take over the obligation in the long term, it confirmed on Wednesday.
Sanctions imposed following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February are hindering bank transfers between Estonia and Russia. This makes it difficult to fulfill pension and social insurance agreements with Russia and Belarus.
But on Friday (November 25), approximately 4,000 elderly people received their pension payments for July, August and September. Estonia paid the third quarter funds itself as Social Insurance Board (SKA) has still not received the money from Russia.
"The concern is, of course, what will happen next, because we have only been able to settle [payments from] the third quarter at the moment, and the government agreed that the Social Insurance Board will negotiate with the Russian Social Insurance Agency to try to settle the issue," Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) told Wednesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".
Estonia previously suggested that, rather than transferring €3 million to Estonian pension recipients in Russia each quarter, it would only send €2 million and keep the remaining money to pay Russian pensions. But Russia turned the idea down, Kati Kümnik, head of SKA's benefits department told ERR.
Attempts to send Russian money to Estonia have repeatedly failed, as have those made via Belarus' Priorbank.
But now an exception has been granted for Priorbank and it is hoped the money will soon reach SKA's bank account, said Kümnik.
But it is not known when Russian pension money will be received for the last quarter of the year, Riisalo said. The funds need to be exchanged by December 10.
"It is also not possible to promise that Estonia will take Russia's place and start fulfilling Russia's obligations," the minister added.
Kohtla-Järve pensioner Nadežda is one of those affected. She told AK that, luckily, she only worked in Russia as a young woman and so the majority of her pension is paid by Estonia. But others she knew found themselves in difficult situations.
"There is a couple in my stairwell whose main working life was in Russia, their whole pensions are from Russia, I can't even imagine how they managed," she said.
Nadežda said she considered opening a Russian bank account to receive her payments but decided against it after it was revealed both pension payments can only be made to one bank account under a bilateral agreement between the countries.
Earlier this month, SKA Director General Maret Maripuu said approximately 4,000 people living in Estonia had not received their Russian state pension in the third quarter.
SKA's data shows 83 percent (3,330 people) of Russian pension recipients also received Estonian pensions in the second quarter. The average pension totaled €519. The remaining 17 percent (677 people) only received Russian pensions which averaged €79.
Estonia's money for the 4,400 pensions it paid out in the third quarter was sent to Russia with no issues.
Pension payments do not depend on citizenship but on the number of years spent working in another country.
Editor: Helen Wright