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Jürgen Ligi slams EKRE MP scheme to deliver donation to Crimean Estonians

Jürgen Ligi during a recent interview with ERR.
Jürgen Ligi during a recent interview with ERR. Source: Priit Mürk

Jürgen Ligi, chairman of the Reform Party parliamentary group, has voiced his opposition, in characteristically sardonic fashion, to Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) board member Jaak Madison's idea to personally deliver €1,000 raised to support ethnic Estonians in Crimea.

Mr. Ligi has reportedly pointed out on his social media page that the Crimea region is subject to financial sanctions and travel bans [following its annexation by the Russian Federation in February-March 2014, in violation of international law-ed.], and delivering the funds in person will not solve any problems, not least since the cost of the whole venture would roughly be equal to the original donation.

Crimea is one of several regions where Estonian communities emerged as part of resettlement of agricultural labourers and others from the Baltic provinces of the former Tsarist Russian Empire, encouraged by its government in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

Origins of the initiative

Jaak Madison initiated the fundraising project after reading a March article by Jaanus Piirsalu in daily Postimees regarding the reported dilapidated state of the local meeting place for ethnic Estonians. 'Eesti Tare'. There was initially a steady flow of donations to the cause, it is reported, but at present, this apparently has since dwindled to the current total of €1,100. The total amount required by Eesti Tare for its refurbishment efforts has been stated as €21,000.

Since electronic money transfers to the region are apparently not supported, one possible solution would be for Mr. Madison to deliver the funds in person. The journey would not be without its difficulties, however; Mr. Madison was declined assistance for his efforts by the Ukrainian Embassy in Estonia in October, it is reported. The peninsular is connected to 'mainland' Ukraine via the narrow Isthmus of Perekop, only 7 km wide at its widest point. The Crimea has several Black Sea ports including Sevastopol; no comment was passed on the viability of air travel.

Ligi on the dangers of the visit

"The West has agreed that in order to avoid any future occupation [by the Russian Federation-ed.], this one must not pay off; annexation must not be recognized by going there in person, one must not fly to or invest in Crimea," wrote Mr. Ligi.

"Those who infringe this will in turn be penalized. Ukraine is occupied, it is at war, a war which causes loss of life day after day and they [presumably Ukraine-ed.] have pleaded with other countries not to make any derogations,'' Mr. Ligi went on.

''The West adheres to a zero-tolerance policy regarding the Crimea and is tense from the fear that some populist might engage in a solo act which could break the united front and the common foreign policy, which in turn could give Russia a chance to exhibit another 'Seagal','' Mr. Ligi added, referring to US action star Steven Seagal, a long time admirer of Vladimir Putin and of Russian-Jewish descent, who was granted Russian citizenship in 2016.

"Jaak Madison, however, knows that he's the one who knows how things are done in the world,'' Mr. Ligi continued, with his trademark sarcasm.

''He [Mr. Madison] doesn't need to consult with people keeping the western security policy intact; he also knows one can obtain other people's money on the internet as well as sell things [an oblique reference to an incident from 2014 when Mr. Madison tried to sell an iphone handed in to lost property on the Tallink ferry where he worked at the time-ed.], and it is precisely the one thousand euros that will deliver the international Estonian community from peril and repair buildings," Mr. Ligi continued in the same vein.

Not finished yet, Mr. Ligi continued that "this is great material for incendiary articles that can perpetuate one's indispensability as a cultural agent and a figure in Crimean history. It also presents the Ukranian government with the dilemma whether to suspend the ban for the 'noble soul' or tell their subjects, who concurrently claim to be Russian subjects, that sanctions must be obeyed, lone mavericks are not needed and communication with Crimea is decided in unison.''

Mr. Ligi concluded by referring to Mr. Madison as "a useful idiot,'' hoping that both the Estonian taxpayer and the Ukrainian government will block the move.

Other politicians' response

Mr. Madison's plan also resulted in an outcry from several other politicians. Marko Mihkelson (Independent) chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, suggested Madison forego the visit as Ukraine would come to regard him persona non grata, equal to other 'useful idiots' for Putin's Russia. 

Several other MPs have reportedly also warned Madison that the visit would leave him vulnerable to blackmail or being used as a tool in Russian propaganda.

Mr. Madison's proposed visit has already been postponed twice in June and August, cancelled both times due to reported clashes of engagement. One of these was probably his visit to Erzurum in eastern Turkey as part of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation observing the early parliamentary and presidential elections in that country.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BNS

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