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Ratas demands resignation of arrested Tartu deputy mayors

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Source: (Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR)

Prime minister and Center Party chairman commented the arrest of two Tartu deputy mayors on Wednesday, saying that his party condemned corruption “in words as well as in actions”. One of the two arrested deputies, Artjom Suvorov, is a member of the Center Party.

Former Center Party chairman and Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar is on trial for corruption. Former deputy mayor of Tallinn Arvo Sarapuu, also a member of the Center Party, left office and later politics after being detained by the Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo) and now facing an investigation of his activities while he was in charge of Tallinn’s waste disposal scheme. After just two weeks as Estonia’s minister of rural affairs following last year’s government change, Center Party MP Martin Repinski had to resign because it turned out that he had lied about the origin of his farm’s products as well as illegally withheld tax payments to the state revenue service.

Faced with yet another corruption case in his party, Ratas said that what had happened in Tartu was “depressing news”, and that it came as a shock to everyone in the party.

“Though it is clear that nobody should be seen as guilty before a court verdict, the suspicions are serious enough to react unequivocally,” the prime minister said. “Both men have to step down as deputy mayors and answer to the suspicions and questions. I also expect the Tartu city administration to cooperate with the Internal Security Service and the prosecutor’s office in every way possible,” he added.

“The Estonian Center Party condemns corruption in its words as well as in its actions now as well as in the future,” Ratas said.

Two of Tartu’s deputy mayors were arrested on Wednesday. Apart from Center’s Artjom Suvorov, Reform Party member Valvo Semilarski was arrested as well. The two cases were not connected, the ISS said on Wednesday.

Suvorov is suspected of having allocated public money to different organizations in exchange for bribes. Semilarski is suspected of large-scale involvement in decisions where he stood to profit personally. Large-scale in this context means that the sum involved amounts to at least €400,000.

Both Reform Party chairman Hanno Pevkur as well as Tartu mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform) called for the resignation of both of the deputies on Wednesday.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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