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Estonia revokes 'Kremlin activist' Aleksandr Kornilov's residence permit

Estonia has withdrawn the residence permit of Aleksandr Kornilov, the head of a pro-Kremlin media portal. As a result, Kornilov, who is currently in Moscow is now banned from entering Estonia and other Schengen countries for a period of five years.

"Serving Russia's politics of division will have consequences," said the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in a social media post. "KAPO (the Estonian Internal Security Services – ISS) and the PPA revoked the residence permit of Aleksandr Kornilov, a Kremlin activist, a link in Russia's influence network," the post continued, adding that Kornilov would also be banned from the Schengen zone for 5 years.

The PPA also referred to the 2014 edition of its yearbook, in which it states that Kornilov runs the websites baltnews.ee and baltija.eu in Estonia and is financed via Media Capital Holding BV, a Dutch-registered company controlled by individuals linked to Russian propaganda agency Rossiya Segodnja (Russia today).

The KAPO report also highlights that one of the founders of BaltNews Vladimir Lepehhin, director general of the Institute of Eurasian Economic Community (IEEC), which is actively involved in activities designed to influence those in Russia's neighborhood.

The report adds, that Lepehhin, who visited Estonia in spring 2014 is also a member of the Zinoviev Club "Russia today" and the Zinoviev Biography Institute.

"One of the co-chairs of this Kremlin propaganda think-tank is Dmitry Kiselyov, director general of Rossiya Segodnja. In meetings with Kornilov and other activists the launch and financing of the BaltNews project (was discussed)," the KAPO report said.

On social media, Kornilov wrote, that the reason cited for revoking his Estonian residence permit related to threats he allegedly poses to public order and national security. However, he told ERR's Russian-language new portal, that he could not comment on the decision further.

"I think this decision is related to my professional journalistic activities," Kornilov said. "No clear answers to this question can be found in the decision itself. It was not specified whether the decision had been made due to me being head of the Baltija portal for example, or because I took part in the processions of the Immortal Regiment (NGO founded in Russia – ed.) or in the work of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots," Kornilov said.

Kornilov is not the first Russian citizen to be declared an agent of Kremlin influence by the KAPO this year. However, unlike Sergei Neprimerov, from Narva, or Ramil Usmanov, who lived in Tartu, the Estonian authorities did not need to escort Kornilov to the border or deport him to Russia.

"There was no deportation as such, because I am no longer in Estonia. I was not taken to the bridge. I received a letter in the post, which said that as of such and such a date I would be subject to forced deportation," Kornilov said.

Kornilov said, that he has been in Russia for over three months and is currently living in Moscow. "My parents are already dead, but their graves remain in Estonia. My wife and grown-up children also live in Estonia," Kornilov added.

Kornilov did not rule out appealing against the decision by the Estonian authorities, however, he believes the prospects of a trial are slim. "I've lived in Estonia for nearly 60 years, but I will have to put up with it," he said.

A criminal case was opened against Kornilov in 2018, after an NGO he was linked to was accused of tax evasion via fictitious transactions. The organization was fined €6,000, while Kornilov himself escaped criminal prosecution.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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