ISS: Russian compatriots council split may have been due to court fears

A police car outside the Russian Embassy in Tallinn.
A police car outside the Russian Embassy in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A representative Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) has suggested, that the disbanding of the Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots in Estonia may have been linked to the detention of pro-Kremlin political activist Aivo Peterson and a section of the Penal Code under which Sergei Seredenko was sentenced to prison in March.

"Peterson is suspected of creating an anti-Estonian association according to the definition outlined in section 235(1) of the Penal Code," said Harrys Puusepp, bureau chief at the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), also known as KAPO.

Puusepp added, that the Coordination Council's activities could be compared to those of Russian political activist Sergei Seredenko, who was sentenced to prison in March.

According to Puusepp, under the supervision of the Russian Embassy, the council implemented Russia's policies of division in Estonia, while maintaining close contact with representatives of the Russian authorities."

"It is possible they realized that the number of commonalities between Seredenko's case and that of Peterson could be quite high," said Harrys Puusepp, bureau chief at the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), also known as KAPO.

The Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots, which was not formally registered in Estonia, reportedly met on the premises of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, where embassy representatives also attended its meetings.

Asked about the council's funding, Puusepp said that the Russian Embassy had provided funds to cover the costs of organizing meetings and annual conferences, "but not much more."

"However, it was a position that opened doors in the Russian Embassy as well as Russian agencies and, before the EU sanctions, to Russian funds, through which money was allocated for divisive activities. We have repeatedly reported this in our previous yearbooks," Puusepp said.

On April 14, at the presentation of the ISS' yearbook, director Arnold Sinisalu said that the Compatriots Coordination Council, which mostly comprised of Russian citizens and had been active in Estonia for almost 30 years, engaged in supporting the Kremlin's policy and usually met at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, disbanded on April 4.

According to Sinisalu, the council disbanded due to disagreements regarding Russia's war in Ukraine among its members.

"In what way the detention of Peterson and the other two persons was related to the decision of the Compatriots Coordination Council at the Russian Embassy to dissolve itself, we have to ask them," Puusepp told ERR.

Peterson is one of the leaders of the Koos / Vmeste movement, which won nearly 4,000 votes in the recent Riigikogu elections. He was detained along with two other men by the ISS (Kapo) in early March on suspicion of forming anti-Estonian association. The Prosecutor's Office stressed, that the suspicion is a preliminary one, which may be subject to change or clarification during the proceedings.

The suspicion against Peterson is based on the same section of Estonia's Penal Code, which saw pro-Russian political activist Sergei Seredenko sentenced to five and a half years in prison last fall.

Seredenko was arrested by the ISS in March 2021 as a suspect in activities against the Republic of Estonia. The Office of the Prosecutor General later charged him with maintaining a relationship antagonistic to the Republic of Estonia.

Last September, Harju County found Seredenko guilty under section 235(1) of the Penal Code and sentenced him to nearly the maximum with five years and six months in prison.

According to the charges, between November 15, 2009 and March 3, 2021, Seredenko had knowingly established and maintained a relationship antagonistic to the Republic of Estonia with seven individuals acting in the interests and on the orders of government agencies of the Russian Federation.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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