Former President Ilves, journalists, politicians on Russian blacklist

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Former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
Former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Among those on Wednesday's Moscow-issued list of Estonian citizens barred from entry to the Russian Federation are former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, journalists Ainar Ruussaar and Erkki Bahovski as well as a number of Estonian politicians.

Ilves confirmed to ERR that he was named on the list as well.

"There is a correlation between Russia's political trends and restrictions," Estonia's previous president told ERR. I was given a visa ban during the Soviet era as well. When the totalitarian state collapsed, the ban disappeared as well. I along with a number of others to receive an entry ban — among them Sen. John McCain and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul — hope that Russia will one day once again become a free, democratic state. This is a desirable prospect not just for Russia's neighbors but also for Russia's own citizens and more generally for the entire free world as well."

Erkki Bahovski, editor-in-chief of Estonian foreign policy magazine Diplomaatia, likewise confirmed his inclusion on the Russian blacklist.

According to the journalist, he is apparently included on the list due to the fact that Diplomaatia has published articles critical of Russia.

Ainar Ruussaar, who writes for daily Postimees, has speculated on the rationale behind his own inclusion.

''One reason could be that I was previously one of the opinion leaders on a Russian-language channel where I pursued an independent line,'' he explained, referring to his time on ERR's channel ETV+, which provides Russian-language content for Estonia's Russian-speaking population.

Another possible reason for his blacklisting, Ruussaar believes, is that he had just returned from a visit to the Caucasian republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan, where he had conducted interviews with the Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, the Azeri opposition leader and others.

The phenomenon of the Russian Federation trying to destabilise both of these countries and others amongst its neighbours was discussed in all the interviews, Ruussaar said.

2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the five-day Russo-Georgian war, where fighting took place over the sovereignty of two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

''It is disturbing to learn that I'm not permitted to transit between any international airport in the Russian Federation,'' said Ruussaar. ''This is not a paramount freedom, but it still causes me concern, and means I might have to occasionally take a more circuitous route when flying to an international destination."

Põlluaas, Herkel on list, Nutt may be as well

Conservative People's Party of Estonia MP Henn Põlluaas and Free Party Chairman Andres Herkel both confirmed to ERR's online news portal that they are among the Estonain politicians who were added to the Russian blacklist. Another may be Pro Patria MP Mart Nutt.

"Yes, I received a notice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning," Herkel confirmed to ERR.

He said that he likely ended upon the list due to his previous activity as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), not his current domestic political activity. From 2012-2014, Herkel served as chairman of PACE's Monitoring Committee, during which time a report was issued about Russia.

"But the term 'Russophobia' is stupid, foolish and idiotic," Herkel remarked. "I have never belittled Russian culture or Russian pople. I have criticised the current regime when it hasn't respected human rights and democracy or has gotten involved in the doings of its neighbouring countries.

Nutt told ERR that he has not yet been summoned by the Foreign Ministry, but he considered it likely that his name was on the list as well.

"I heard a year ago already that I allegedly have issues with entering Russia, and so I wouldn't be surprised if I am on this list now," said the Pro Patria MP.

Minister: List includes three former ministers, some current MPs

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE), the blacklist includes three former ministers as well as a few current MPs. The minister did not name any names, leaving it up to each individual to decide for themselves whether to reveal that they are included on the list.

Among others who have confirmed their inclusion on the list are former journalist Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE), historian Igor Kopõtin, former Free Party member Sergei Metlev, who currently works at the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, activist Jevgeni Kristafovitš, international law professor Evhen Tsybulenko, political scientist Toomas Alatalu, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute director Kristi Raik, and International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) research fellows Kalev Stoicescu and Ivo Juurvee and executive director Dmitri Teperik.

Wednesday's list of names was announced on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website (though the names contained have not been made public) and comes in direct response to Estonia's own Magnitsky List of Russian citizens forbidden entry into Estonia unveiled in March this year.

Individuals on the list have been contacted directly by Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mikser said.

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aili Vahtla

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