ISS head: No 'fifth column' in Estonia

Russian passports.
Russian passports. Source: ERR

Director General of the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) Arnold Sinisalu said that there is no so-called fifth column in Estonian society, which would be made up of a considerable number of Russian-speaking people with hostile intent toward the Estonian state.

"We could leave the 'fifth column' topic alone," Sinisalu said at the presentation of the security service's 2022-2023 Annual Review on Wednesday.

The ISS director emphasized that the Russian community in Estonia is multifaceted – they inhabit different parts of the country, sport different levels of integration, have different interests and background, whereas their Estonian proficiency might also not reflect their attitudes. "It is all quite a lot more diverse than that," he remarked.

Sinisalu added that the fact the Russian-speaking population is not homogenous is also confirmed by University of Tartu studies.

He pointed to the 20-60-20 model in societies where 20 percent of people are always against something and want to protest, 60 percent are passive, while 20 percent are progressive.

If we presume that 20 percent of Russian-speakers are critical of policy, perhaps 10 percent would be willing to protest and take to the streets, while the other 10 percent could potentially passively support them. "But it is not something we should be concerned about."

Additionally, protesting is a constitutional right, he added.

Russian coordination council no more

The ISS director also pointed out that the Compatriots Coordination Council, which was made up largely of Russian citizens and active in Estonia for 30 years, engaged in supporting the Kremlin's policy and usually meeting at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, was disbanded on April 4. He gave the Ukraine war as the reason as it sparked differences between the members.

Sinisalu said that such coordination councils exist in many countries, while the one in Estonia was the first to be dissolved.

He also revealed that the ISS expelled a few Russian-speaking activists as a preventative measure in 2022. Some of them have challenged the decision in court. Sinisalu said that many supporters of Russia are not willing to move there because they want to enjoy the European way of life and do not wish to live under the Russian regime.

The ISS head also described as successful the agency's policy of making hostile countries' operative environment in Estonia as difficult as possible to promote the realization that those who cooperate can be caught and prosecuted.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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