State sees no reason to penalize Aivo Peterson over pro-Kremlin campaigning
The actions of a candidate at the recent Riigikogu elections, who recently visited occupied eastern Ukraine and made video campaign clips echoing a pro-Kremlin line while on the ground there, do not constitute cause for any punishment, senior representatives of the Estonian state say.
Additionally, Peterson, who amassed nearly 4,000 votes, considerably more than many sitting government ministers, cannot be stripped of his citizenship, since he is an Estonian citizen by birth.
Legal evaluations are given by law enforcement agencies, and the inconsistency with Estonian laws can be detected by the prosecuting agency during the procedure," said Veiko Kommusaar,, in response to ERR's question whether there would be grounds for punishing Peterson.
Deputy Secretary General for Internal Security at the Ministry of the Interior Veiko Kommusaar told ERR that: "Legal estimates provided by law enforcement agencies will bring out any inconsistencies with Estonian law, in the course of proceedings."
The Prosecutor's Office meanwhile says no potential legal violations have been identified, in relation to Peterson's activities.
Kauri Sinkevicius, Prosecutor's Office spokesperson, said: "Traveling to Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory is not a crime in and of itself, but we nevertheless do not recommend doing so, for a variety of other reasons. We have examined what has been published in the media on this topic, and we have not started procedures as of now."
Meanwhile Harrys Puusepp, spokesperson for the Internal Security Service (ISS), had a similar message, adding that unless criminal proceedings are underway, the ISS does not consider it viable to share its evaluations with a specific person.
Peterson cannot be stripped of his Estonian citizenship
Sinkevicius stressed that neither the Prosecutor's Office nor the ISS deal with citizenship issues, however.
Veiko Kommusaar of the interior ministry, the relevant authority, said that since Peterson is an Estonian citizen by birth, his citizenship cannot be removed
He said: "I would like to add that Estonia is a country governed by the rule of law, and granting and withdrawing citizenship is regulated by the state under quite detailed regulation, and are decisions which are made in a deliberate, legal and evidence-based manner."
According to the Citizenship Act, § 28-§ 29, an individual can be stripped of their Estonian citizenship, by government order, if he or she:
1) while an Estonian citizen, enters the public service or military service of a foreign state without the permission of the Government of the Republic;
2) joins the intelligence or security service of a foreign state or an armed organization of such a state, which is set up in accordance with military principles or which engages in military exercises;
3) has attempted to change the constitutional order of Estonia by force;
4) when acquiring Estonian citizenship by naturalization or in relation to the restoration to him or her of Estonian citizenship, submits false information to conceals facts which would have precluded the grant or restoration of Estonian citizenship to him or her;
5) is a citizen of another state but has not been released from Estonian citizenship.
Additionally, § 28 (2) and (3) has it that:
(2) No one may be deprived of Estonian citizenship because of his or her beliefs.
(3) Subsection 1 of this section does not apply to persons who have acquired Estonian citizenship by birth.
Under § 29:
A person is deemed by the governmental authority authorized by the Government of the Republic to have ceased to be an Estonian citizen when the person accepts the citizenship of another state or when he or she renounces Estonian citizenship in favor of the citizenship of another state.
In addition, Estonian citizenship can be revoked in relation to an individual who, upon obtaining or Estonian citizenship or having it restored to them, has concealed, by providing false information, circumstances that would have precluded them from being granted Estonian citizenship or having it restored to them, and also if they hold the citizenship of another country, but has not been exempted from Estonian citizenship.
Estonian citizenship can also be revoked in the case of persons who have obtained it by merit, ie. been awarded it by the state on the basis of services to the Estonian state that that person is adjudged to have made, while they were not an Estonian citizen.
In addition, the same law emphasizes that Estonian citizenship cannot be taken away from someone due to their beliefs, and also that Estonian citizenship cannot be removed from a person who has acquired it by birth.
Peterson is a leading member of the Koos/Vmeste (English: "Together") movement, which was folded into the United Left Party (EÜVP) list ahead of the Riigikogu election.
Peterson polled at 3,969 in Ida-Viru County, and narrowly missed out on winning a seat.
The EÜVP also crossed the 2 percent threshold required to obtain state support, which could mean it is due for tens of thousands of euros per year in state funding, from the Estonian state, despite plying a Kremlin line.
The result has also been seen by analysts as providing an insight into how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is viewed by many Ida-Viru County-dwellers, even though they are Estonian citizens – only citizens may vote in Riigikogu elections. Most of Ida-Viru County's towns are largely Russian-speaking.
Peterson returned to Estonia from Ukraine on Monday and, while he was subject to Estonian border guard checks which lasted a total of around four hours, was allowed back into the country.
Aivo Peterson (born Krõlov) co-founded Koos/Vmeste with businessman Oleg Ivanov. The latter reportedly referred to the Bucha massacre of Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war by Russian military personnel, which came to light at the beginning of April 2022, as having been "staged".
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots