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MP: It's not easy to prevent Russians in Estonia from voting in presidential elections

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn.
The Russian Embassy in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Russia criticized the Baltic states for lack of cooperation with its presidential elections, but it would not be easy to prevent Russian nationals living in Estonia from voting in the presidential elections, Reform MP Eerik-Niiles Kross told Vikerradio on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Russia summoned the d'affaires ad interim of the Baltic states, who have assumed positions of the expelled ambassadors in Moscow, to criticize the lack of cooperation in the conduct of the presidential elections in their states.

Kross, who is a member of the foreign affairs committee, said it would not be easy to prevent Russian citizens here from participating in the sham elections. "Presidential elections in Russia are illusory," he said. "But Russia is holding elections on its own territory, in its embassy, which is the territory of the Russian Federation, so it is protected by the Vienna Convention and several other conventions to which Estonia is a party. And we also have to consider that our diplomats are still in Moscow now, so what we do to them, they do to us," he said.

But the question surrounding these elections is much bigger, he continued, namely whether Estonia should recognize them at all.

Kross said that according to the Venice Commission, an independent advisory body to the Council of Europe on constitutional reform, fundamental rights and democratic institutions, the Russian elections are not legitimate.

"The legal analysis of their best lawyers revealed that since the referendum that changed the Russian Constitution under Putin was in itself a violation of the Russian Constitution, the elections that were allowed as a result of that referendum are in fact not legitimate, and both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have passed resolutions calling for these elections not to be recognized," he recalled.

Eerik-Niiles Kross. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"This begs the question of what status Putin should have in the eyes of the international community," he said.

"If the elections were illegitimate, then the clear legal position should be that Putin is no longer the legitimate head of the Russian state and should be placed on the same level as Lukashenka, who just rigged the election and all the opposition candidates are in jail, well, Putin has done a little bit of the same, and in fact, under Russian law, Putin should not even be a candidate."

Another question is whether this matters at all, whether these elections are recognized or not, he continued. "Of course, Putin doesn't care, and we can't change his mind in that way, but the free world's stance matters, and even though international resolutions call these elections illegal even under Russia's own Constitution, at least some major European powers are reluctant to go down this road. So do we want Estonia or the Baltic states, along with perhaps Poland, to be the only countries that say we do not recognize these elections?"

Kross said that while the state cannot prohibit these elections from taking place in Estonia, it can tell people that it is illegal to participate in them. "So we can put some pressure on it," he said.

"If we were the only country to do this, it might not be good for Estonian-Russian relations, because Russia has already been spreading messages for years, especially since February 2022, that marginalize the statehood of the Baltic states," he said.

Although Russia does not actively undermine the legitimacy of the Baltic countries in the same aggressive manner that it denies the existence of Ukraine, it does diminish the significance of the Baltics, as was the case when Malta assumed the OSCE presidency in stead of Estonia, under Russia's pressure, he said.

"They don't question whether Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians exist, but they do question whether Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are the same kind of statehood as other European countries," Kross said.

This is a particular type of messaging that, according to him, indicates that the Russians are preparing information space, so to speak, or justification for their hybrid attacks against the Baltic states. "It is evident that they are trying to persuade the world, to sway public opinion, that the Baltic states are somehow lesser nation states."

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

Source: Radio program hosts Margit Kilumets and Janek Luts.

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