Estonia's security agencies are likely to monitor very closely the activities and movements of a pro-Kremlin politician who returned to Estonia Monday, former justice minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) says.
Aivo Peterson came close to winning a seat at Sunday's Riigikogu election, where he ran on the United Left Party (EÜVP) list. Peterson had made campaigning videos from Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine ahead of polling day.
Aeg, justice minister in the Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition which left office in January 2021, and also a former chief both of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and of the Internal Security Service (ISS), said: "Basing this on my prior work experience, I would say it would be odd if he were not being watched."
"Such an individual certainly needs to be monitored, as he clearly poses a certain threat, if not to anything else, then to our international reputation," Aeg continued, appearing on Vikerradio's morning show Wednesday.
Looking at Peterson's pre-election activities and his contacts, Aeg said: "Ultimately, this entire trip to the occupied territories in Ukraine was not for tourist purposes; he was welcomed there with open arms, a whole itinerary was put in place, and this serves to indicate that he had contacts primarily on the side of the Russian Federation."
Aeg also said that Peterson's crossing over back into Estonia Monday probably involved more than the reported four-hour checking process, noting that various agencies will be looking at what the next steps might be.
The newly-elected Riigikogu, once it takes up its seats, may address, via legislative amendments, the fact that, since he is an Estonian citizen his actions do not allow any significant penalization under Estonian law.
Aeg also reminded the hosts that in the aftermath of Bronze Night, 2007, when large-scale riots and disruption in Tallinn followed the simple removal and relocation across town of a Soviet-era statue, ringleaders ultimately were not penalized, after being acquitted by the courts.
Aeg was talking to Kirke Ert and Taavi Libe, on "Vikerhommik", Wednesday morning.
Peterson is leader of the Koos/Vmeste movement, which was folded into the EÜVP for the Riigikogu elections.
The party's strong showing in Ida-Viru County not only nearly led to his winning a seat, but also means that the true, current opinion on the Ukraine war of many Estonian citizens living in Ida-Viru County has been indicated.
Also, the party passed the 2 percent threshold required to receive state subsidies, in theory to the tune of tens of thousands of euros per year.
All political parties beyond this threshold receive support in proportion to their size, which comes out of the annual state budget.
Again, this might be something for the XV Riigkogu to address.
Interior minister: ISS are doing their job in monitoring Peterson
Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) confirmed that Peterson was under close scrutiny, telling ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "Fear not, the ISS are doing their job and doing it very well."
The minister added that Peterson's actions were first and foremost a police matter, rather than that for the government on its own.
Peterson, born Krõlov, who reportedly worked as a border guard himself, for around a decade-and-a-half and is now a social media journalist (self-proclaimed) saw his trip to the Donbas region arranged and paid for by a Russian NGO, he says, adding that he had received information that "Estonian boys" had been imprisoned there, which turned out not to be the case, he added.
He remained unrepentant, adding he would return to the region if possible and denied any wrongdoing, adding he has taken legal advice.
The ISS, more commonly known by its Estonian acronym, Kapo, told AK that until such time as criminal proceedings are instigated on the matter, they were unable to comment on it.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming, Mait Ots
Source: 'Vikerhommik', 'Aktuaalne kaamera'