Russia warns of strict measures if Estonia continues to oppress Sputnik

Sputnik's office in Tallinn.
Sputnik's office in Tallinn. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said that Russia will take reciprocal measures if the Estonian authorities continue their current policy toward Sputnik journalists by putting pressure on them, the TASS news agency reported on Thursday.

“We hope that Estonia will abandon this unprecedented unlawful initiative, we hope that they will think twice,” Matviyenko said.

“Otherwise, we will take corresponding measures, and they will be strict, because it is unacceptable to continue tolerating such actions and oppression of mass media,” she said.

According to the speaker, such actions against Sputnik will affect the general state of Russian-Estonian relations. “I would like to hope that Estonia has some semblance of sovereignty and that such statements regarding Sputnik simply coincided with the visit of UK Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] to Estonia,” Matviyenko said.

According to TASS, the Russian Federation Council sent letters to OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic, calling on them to influence the Estonian government in order to stop attempts to hinder the work of the Sputnik news agency.

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained on Wednesday that Sputnik was founded in 2014 by Rossiya Segodnya as its international branch. Director General of Rossiya Segodnya Dmitry Kiselyov is one of the Russian officials on the EU list of sanctioned persons as a supporter of the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

On the basis of the personal sanctions imposed on Dmitry Kiselyov, Estonian banks in late October froze the bank accounts of Rossiya Segodnya.

In December, the Financial Intelligence Unit informed individuals who have an employment contract or employment relationship with Rossiya Segodnya that knowingly sanctioning or providing services to the organization could result in criminal liability, a stance unprejudiced by Sputnik’s media-related categorization and largely linked to Kiselyov’s status.

The journalistic content of Sputnik is of no importance from the perspective of application of financial sanctions. The decisive factor was Kiselyov’s role in the attack on Ukraine and his personal ties and benefiting from the activity of Rossiya Segodnya.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said that Estonian authorities are afraid of Russian journalists. “I am surprised by the events taking place in Estonia,” Putin said at a press conference last week when responding to complaints of persecution by the editor-in-chief of the Estonian arm of propaganda channel Sputnik.

Putin called Estonian authorities’ efforts an astonishing display of cynicism and suggested that the authorities were “afraid” of the Sputnik journalists’ activities.

Putin said that the West hypocritically accuses Russia of “clamping down” on its media, all the while European countries themselves are engaged in doing so.

“You do a great deal, and the attempts to interfere with your work by the country’s authorities must not go unnoticed,” he said.

“It is important to seek the opportunity for journalists to work in those countries that are afraid of your information, of your influence,” the Russian head of state said, promising to do his best to support Russian journalists with legal measures.