The Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday rebutted criticism it has withheld information from the public about the investigations into the damaged gas pipeline and undersea communication cables in the Gulf of Finland.
Yesterday, security expert Erkki Koort said more information should be made available to the public about what is happening in Estonian territorial waters. News should not come from Swedish and Finnish ministers.
"The Prosecutor's Office is in charge of the procedure and the Prosecutor's Office has obviously said not to share information, but in terms of communication and dealing with the public, it is not the prosecutor's office that is responsible for this type of communication. So I think it's very bad practice to withhold this information," said Koort who is the head of the Internal Security Institute at the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences.
On Wednesday, Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern told ERR is cooperating with other state agencies and has regularly updated the public on developments.
"The Prosecutor's Office has not in any way prevented the publication of certain information and such allegations are not true," he said.
Pern said as soon as the law enforcement agencies shared their findings with the government, the information was passed on to the public.
"Both the government and the Prosecutor's Office confirmed last Thursday evening that the initial work on the Estonian-Finnish communication cable had been carried out at sea and that the damage was man-made. We also confirmed that in the proceedings we can also verify the circumstances of the damage to the Estonian-Swedish communication cable, where there are grounds to believe on the basis of preliminary information that the damage is man-made, but we will verify this more thoroughly. Also yesterday we addressed the public with the available information," Pern said.
The Prosecutor's Office is still studying the evidence and not all the facts have been clarified, he added. There is still a lot of speculation.
"However, the Prosecutor's Office cannot speculate or disclose unconfirmed information, as disclosing incomplete or unconfirmed information can, unfortunately, do more harm than good, both to the further gathering of evidence and the establishment of the truth, as well as to the wider public," added Pern.
The official said that the case of damage to communication cables and a gas pipe is broader than the criminal proceedings conducted in Estonia.
He said the damage to the cables and Balticconnector gas pipeline is wider than Estonia's criminal proceedings.
"In addition to the Prosecutor's Office, the public has been briefed by various national authorities and ministers, all of whom have a role to play in the case. The investigations involve three countries, which is why international cooperation is needed, and until yesterday the statements of the other countries were the same, which Estonia confirmed last Thursday – damage to both communication cables is suspected to have been man-made, but we will continue to further clarify this during the investigation," Pern explained.
Additionally, the investigation into Balticconnector is being run by Finnish law enforcement agencies, he said.
"Therefore, it would have been inconceivable that evidence discovered in Finnish criminal proceedings would have been brought to the public's attention first by Estonia and only then by Finland, which found the evidence in its territorial waters. In our international cooperation, we must respect the fact that each country is in charge of its own criminal proceedings and the related communication, and we cannot ignore the principles of good cooperation simply to be the first in the picture," said Pern.
Estonia's investigation is being managed by the Internal Security Service (ISS) and the proceedings by the Prosecutor's Office.
"A separate criminal proceeding has not been initiated in Estonia to investigate the damage to the communication cable between Estonia and Sweden, but we can check the primary circumstances within the framework of the existing procedure," Pern said.
Why was the prime minister at the press conference?
Writing in Wednesday's (October 25) Postimees, Koort questions why Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) was at the press conference given by the State Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday.
"The absurdity of the situation was illustrated by a press conference held on October 25 at the Prosecutor's Office, where the prosecutor and the prime minister were at the table. After the state prosecutor had spoken about the investigation, she was corrected by the prime minister. /---/ It gave the impression that the prime minister was leading the investigation in Estonia," he said.
In response, Kauri Sinkevicius, spokesperson of the prosecutor's office, said as the criminal case is broad, a "government representative" also attended who could answer about different aspects of the case.
Estonia is participating in three investigations, two related to damaged communication cables and the third about the damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline.
However, information about Balticconnector, which connects Estonia and Finland, and the data cable that runs between Sweden and Estonia has been released by agencies outside of Estonia.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Helen Wright