Tallinn City Council will vote on Thursday on a bill which would award the Tallinn merit decoration to a few tens of people, among them Center group member Aleksei Semjonov.
Center group chairman Toivo Tootsen told ERR that, to his knowledge, the Center group would not be voting against the bill.
According to Tallinn deputy mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center), Semjonov, who has been nominated for the city decoration, has been recognized by presidents and ministers alike and fully deserves the recognition of the city of Tallinn.
Prime Minister and Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas has previously stated that he would not have nominated Semjonov for the decoration.
The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), Reform Party and Social Democractic Party (SDE) are against Semjonov being awarded the decoration.
ISS critical of ITK
Semjonov's activity has been repeatedly highlighted in the Estonian Internal Security Service's (ISS) annual yearbooks in which his nonprofit Estonian Legal Information Centre for Human Rights (ITK) has been named as one of the Kremlin's primary instruments of influence in Estonia.
In ISS' 2016 review, specific reference is made to the fact that ITK members travel to international gatherings and events of human rights activists at the expense of the so-called Fund for the Legal Protection of Russian Federation Compatriots Living Abroad. Dating back to 2012, the fund cross-finances human rights organizations offering legal help to Russian residents of a variety of countries, and in the Baltic has repeatedly been used to pipe money to Kremlin sympathizers in local politics.
ITK and other sympathetic organizations are funded this way with tens of thousands of euros every year, while their publications supported by the Russian embassies. "Paid for by Russian money, these 'independent representatives of Estonian civil society' painted a picture of Estonia that completely met the expectation of the sponsor," it stood in the ISS' 2016 review.
Kõlvart, however, pointed out that though ITK had indeed figured in the ISS' annual reports on several occasions, international NGO Amnesty International had found the accusation that the organization was connected with the Kremlin "baseless."
Editor: Aili Vahtla