Deputy head of the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Jaak Madison told Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" program that articles that associated his party with Russia's Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin were part of an information operation to curb popular support for EKRE ahead of elections.
Madison told "Uudis+" that Russia has not sought to contact EKRE in any way.
"The Delfi article that presented ties between Prigozhin and former EKRE leader Mart Helme as a fact, suggesting that cooperation was launched four years ago, was an information operation two weeks before elections. Just how a similar operation before the 2019 elections tried to claim EKRE members threw rocks at foreigners on a beach, which later turned out to be a conscious false accusation. There is nothing to suggest we are working with Russian or other countries' national organizations," Madison said.
That Wagner might try and approach EKRE Madison described as logical.
"It makes sense and is real that Russian special services are trying to infiltrate political parties in Europe and the Baltics, including Estonia. It is hardly unheard-of. We need to keep it in mind and counter it, whereas the Internal Security Service (ISS) has told ERR in an interview that they have no information to suggest Wagner's team has had contact with our party. I trust our Internal Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service in this matter that would have surely mentioned it in their yearbooks. That they [Russians] are trying to pursue influence operations is the political reality today," Madison said.
The politician went on to suggest whether donations Raimond Kaljulaid got from two Russian businessmen before European Parliament elections might not also have been tied to Russian special services. "Considering the money they were handling, they likely were connected," he said.
"We can also look at the fact that some parties have strongly been against taking away Russian citizens' right to vote at local elections. Could there be a link to Russian special services there? So there are a lot of doubts and hesitation floating around, while there have been no political steps to suggest our party could in any way be tied to groups in Russia," Madison remarked.
Madison claimed that Marine Le Pen has not received support from Russia and that Germany's most Russia-friendly decisions were made under Christian Democrat Angela Merkel. "From there, we could launch an investigation into Russia's ties to Europe's so-called presentable parties and the decisions they've made that have favored Russia and cost us plenty by today," Madison said.
He added that Estonian articles quoting the POLITICO piece are adding to EKRE popularity instead. "This information operation is boosting our rating. It has disappeared from the front pages after just a day or two as they've realized it is playing into our hands," he offered.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski