Minister: Aggressor nation of past 80-plus years must settle its bill

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The tab in respect of a war which in effect has lasted for over 80 years in Europe must be picked up by the country responsible for prosecuting that war, namely the Russian Federation, Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) says.

The minister made his remarks Thursday, joining the dots between World War Two, the "first" Cold War and the current situation, and the responsibility for these at the door of the Russian Federation, as the successor state to the Soviet Union (as stated in the current Russian constitution after the amendments of 2020 – ed.).

Thursday's cabinet meeting had seen the approval at the executive level of amendments to the International Sanctions Act, which, among other things, provides the domestic legal framework for the pressing into use of frozen Russian assets in Estonia, in order to compensate for damage caused to Ukraine and to contribute to that country's post-war reconstruction.

The volume of frozen Russian assets held in Estonia alone stand at around €38 million; worldwide, the figure is put at around US$200 billion, principally held in the European banks whose hospitality Russian oligarchs and others tend to abuse when taking money out of their own country.

The amendments will also clarify the enforcement of existing sanctions; circumvention of these and the means whereby this has been done have been widely reported in the Estonian media in recent weeks.

Foreign Minister Tsahkna said: "Depriving the citizens of the aggressor nation, citizens who have contributed to that aggression, of their assets held outside their homeland, is wholly justifiable, given that for over 80 years now, years a war has been going on in the heart of Europe, one which will decide the European security architecture for a long time to come."

"Penalizing every single individual who has contributed to the aggression can ultimately influence the political leadership of, or the people of, that aggressor nation, in the direction of their coming to follow international law," he went on, via a Government Office press release.

The foreign minister added that according to the bill, Russia's frozen assets will remain so until war damage has been compensated for. An international agreement with Ukraine, or an international compensation mechanism, is necessary to apply that mechanism.

As for the bill in question, the minister said: "Part of it represents an Estonian initiative to utilize frozen Russian assets to compensate for the harm caused by Russia's heartless war on Ukraine. The funds needed to compensate for the damage caused by Russia in Ukraine should not derive only from the taxpayers of other countries."

Utilizing an entire country's frozen assets requires a legal basis as past precedent has shown; the present bill attempts to do that, from a domestic Estonian perspective.

"It must be borne in mind that any country is a legal entity, and both acts and bears responsibility via its people," Tsahkna stressed. 

The prime minister meanwhile stressed the importance of raising the stakes of aggression so far as Russia goes and reiterated the foreign minister's call for Russia to be held responsible.

Estonia must also be a trailblazer and an example to other European and Western nations, the prime minister went on, an approach she has taken consistently since entering office in early 2021.

The bill will if it passes into law organize the Estonian legal space more broadly, to render the competence and powers of the relevant institutions in the implementation and supervision of sanctions clearer and more efficient.

The next stage will be for the bill to pass to the Riigikogu for processing at the committee level, debating and voting. Of this, Foreign Minister Tsahkna said. "I hope that it will be on the Riigikogu's agenda as soon as possible, in order to continue raising the stakes of war to Russia, including making the already in-force sanctions more effective."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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