What the Papers Say: Tallinn Transport trip to China and RT attacks

Estonian newspapers for delivery (picture is illustrative).
Estonian newspapers for delivery (picture is illustrative). Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

A largely expenses-paid trip to China for the Tallinn City Transport board to China, an RT attack (in German) on anti-misinformation blog Propastop, wide-ranging food prices and some home truths in the aftermath of the great storm of Sunday, Oct. 26 were the subject of Estonia's dailies, weeklies and news portals on Tuesday, Oct. 29. All links in Estonian unless otherwise stated.

Business jolly to China for entire Tallinn Transport board

Head of Tallinn City Transport (TLT) Denis Boroditš went on a business jolly to China with the entire TLT board in September, leaving the organization (2,000 employees) board-less for the week they were away, according to investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress.

Champagne, Cognac, pens and even a €769 chair were among the purchases made in connection with the €11,600 trip which took in the cities of Shenzen and Shengzhou.

The trip was not the first of its kind, the paper said – a previous Moscow sojourn led to several of the delegation staying a few days longer than planned, and Kazakhtsan has also been a destination, despite the fact that the city has not business interests (though a friend of Boroditš, Alexander Kovalev , who is the head of Paldiski North Harbor, does, and plans to build a transit center for the Kazakh state rail company).

TLT also outsources legal services even though it has in-house lawyers, to firms like KPMG Law and Sorainen, with hourly costs being around €150 plus VAT.

Boroditš' monthly take-home pay is €6,500, higher than that of the head of state, the paper reports.

State can barely look after itself during emergencies

Sunday's storm damage caught the attention of daily Postimees, which noted that the aftermath, which left tens of thousands of electricity customers without power, was not the first recent incident of its kind – after a similar outage in Saaremaa in January, the Competition Authority found electricity distributor Elektrilevi guilty of misconduct, something which seems to be forgotten by now, the paper said.

As well as lessons about the poor design of one electricity substation's roof, aspects of the reliance of electricity hit home hard when one rescue truck could not be refueled – since electricity was required to work the fuel pump.

While the national security plan puts an emphasis on maintaining critical services in a national emergency, this means that private citizens would need to look out for themselves, as has been proven with the recent storm, particularly in rural areas – matches, candles, stoves, canned food and the like are something which everyone needs to learn to be able to live with for a few days at a stretch, as the state has proven it struggles to look after itself.

Potatoes rise most in price on year, apples least, and some vegetables see big price changes in one week

Agricultural weekly Maaleht did a food price comparison on Oct. 26 across six of Estonia's principal towns, finding that potatoes had seen the largest year-on-year (y-o-y) increase, of 11 percent, while the price of apples had fallen nearly 20 percent over the same period.

Some big changes could be found in just a week, as well, with imported cucumbers seeing over a 27 percent rise on the previous week, and Estonian tomatoes increasing in price by nearly as much.

While meat products (apart from lamb) did not see a wide regional variation, the same could not be said of butter, a pack of which can cost as much as €11.00 per kilogram in Tallinn central market, compared with €8.75 per kilogram just down the road in Nõmme market and as little as €7.20 in Narva.

Eggs, too, varied in price from a little over a Euro per kilogram in some places to nearly twice that in others, though overall prices had fallen by 4.3 percent on the previous week.

Honey could vary widely in price, from around €7.00 per kilogram in Pärnu to €10.00 per kilogram in Narva and Tartu, and a wide range was found in the cost of Jerusalem artichokes (Maapirnid), no less, which at €6.00 a kilogram were three times the price in Tallinn that they were in Tartu.

Want to rent a garage, to live in?

An interesting if rather unusual "apartment" has been spotted for sale in Tallinn, news portal Geenius reports.

The ad in question, on real estate portal Kinnisvara24, shows a semi-furnished space which on closer inspection is revealed to be an underground garage space.

While it has electricity, water and heating, even the seller concedes it might be more suitable for a storage space or winter storage for a vehicle, rather than a dwelling.

Tenants actually have the right to deposit earned interest

Speaking of real estate, another Geenius article explains what tenants can do in cases where landlords misuse deposits.

The Law of Obligations Act (LOA) provides that the landlord must deposit the tenant's deposit in a separate account with at least the local average interest rate, with this interest increasing the deposit and being due to the tenant.

Very few landlords actually follow this rule, however, Geenius said, and most have not even heard of it, with very few tenants ever laying claim to the interest.

However, if the lease on a property does not state that the deposit is so held, this does not invalidate the lease, though it does not preclude the tenant from the right to claim the interest under the LOA.

If a tenant wishes to renegotiate the lease to take advantage of the law which grants their right to the interest, they can propose this, with the understanding that it runs the risk of some bad feeling and possible termination of the lease

RT in German calls Estonians fascists, nazis etc.

Finally, volunteer Defence League (Kaitseliit)-staffed anti-misinformation blog Propastop has found its own people's initiative, a gathering of signatures via the (Citizen Initiative Portal) aimed at petitioning Parliament to regulate the activities of hostile propaganda channels in Estonia, being attacked by the German-language edition of Kremlin-controlled media channel RT, formerly Russia Today (links in English).

The article says the initiative is one of many right-wing or nationalistic attempts at rabble rousing, replete with exhortations to violence, promotion of fascism and Nazism, Russophobia etc., which it rams home with a photo of the Lihula statue (commemorating Estonians who fought against Soviet forces in World War Two).

The story is further spiced up with accusations of Estonia making violence and Russophobia heroic acts, and promoting fascism and Nazism.

The piece is in fact a German updated version of a Baltnews article from mid-September which focused on what it called failed attempts to block Russian media by collecting signatures (ie. the Propastop People's initiative).

Investigative journalist group Re:Baltica reported in 2017 that Baltnews online portals operating in the Baltic states are run by the Russian state via a corporate scheme.

Propastop notes that both pieces however do not address or refute its claim that Sputnik Eesti and Baltnews are part of the RT network and distribute anti-Estonian messages.

It is noteworthy that both the RT story and the Baltnews article report but do not refute Propastop's view that Sputnik Eesti and Baltnews belong to the Russia Today network and distribute anti-Estonian messages.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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