Fr, 30.09.2022

Estonia’s embassy in Moscow is prepared for possible provocations

Ulla Länts
, ajakirjanik
Estonia’s embassy in Moscow is prepared for possible provocations
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The building of the Estonian embassy in Moscow, Estonian ambassador to Russia Margus Laidre (left).
The building of the Estonian embassy in Moscow, Estonian ambassador to Russia Margus Laidre (left). Photo: Konstantin Sednev
  • Estonia’s embassy in Moscow has received threats.
  • The security of the embassy must be ensured by the host country’s police.
  • Authority of the Estonian police applies only on the territory of the embassy.

The Estonian embassy in Moscow has received threats after the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that it could be stoned. According to Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, the security of our embassy is constantly monitored. Zakharova spoke in response to Reinsalu's discussion about Russian residents who could pick up paving stones after losing the opportunity to visit the European Union countries, so as to change their situation in their own country.

According to Reinsalu, there are currently no problems with the security of the Moscow embassy despite the threats of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Reinsalu said that the ministry constantly conducts threat analyzes for all our embassies, including the one in Moscow. He added that if there is a threat to our diplomatic mission, additional measures will be taken.

The host country bears the responsibility

The minister of foreign affairs pointed out that according to the Vienna Convention, the responsibility for the security of the embassy rests with the host country, and just as we ensure the security of the Russian embassy in Tallinn, the Russians must ensure the security of our embassy in Moscow.

Margus Laidre, Estonian Ambassador to Russia, said that they have received threats by e-mail, but at the same time confirmed that the situation in Moscow is under control and the embassy is working as usual. In addition to the threats, an effigy was brought to the main entrance of the consulate on Monday – a large rock with a blue-black-white flag painted on it and a noose tied around it.

According to the ambassador, there is currently no such situation in Moscow as during the “bronze night”. He explained that, in addition to Estonia's own police guard, the embassy has a guard provided by Russia, and in connection with the recent rhetorical statements, the Russian police had stationed an additional patrol on the consulate side of the building, so the stone incident was quickly responded to.

MEP Marina Kaljurand, who came under attack as Estonia’s Ambassador to Moscow in 2007, was skeptical of the Russian police. According to her, the statement of the representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a direct call to violence, and it is generally known how youth organizations operate in Russia. “Perhaps there really isn't a youth organization like Nashi used to be but there are different ones and of course they monitor what is said. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that now you can start throwing stones, it is actually a direct call for violence against our diplomats and embassy.”

Kaljurand said that the Russian police had tried to ensure some kind of order in 2007 so that the embassy was not burned down, but the flag was torn down, the building was pelted with stones, and the consular department was shot at.

“At that time, the Russian state could not guarantee the safety of diplomats and the embassy, ​​and now, when there is a war in Ukraine, I have no illusions at all that the Russian state would do anything to protect the Estonian embassy. I think it is rather the opposite: they again want to show it as the embassy of a fascist state and say that it is a statement of opinion of Russian citizens. So we can expect the same scenario as in 2007 if not worse,” said Kaljurand and added that at that time the Russian authorities actually tried to present it as a rebellion of Russian citizens against Estonian politics.

Urmas Paet, who was the minister of foreign affairs in 2007 and is now a member of the European Parliament, stated that there were attempts to present the attack on Estonia’s Moscow embassy as the will of the Russian people. He recalled that the main support the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could provide to its embassy was constant phone calls to Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. “I repeatedly told Lavrov to stop, and the answer was always that this is the will of the people and they cannot do anything. In fact, it was just necessary to agree on what time they would give the order for the rebels to withdraw.”

Own security service

According to former police chief Raivo Aeg, Estonia fortunately had its own security officers at the embassy back in 2007. Years before, there had been only security guards hired from Moscow, whose reliability was close to zero. The situation changed only when Karin Jaani became the ambassador. “I was the head of the security police at the time when Jaani turned to us with a request that the embassy should be provided with police guard, and a security police team was sent to the Moscow embassy,” said Aeg. In his opinion, it was very useful in 2007: namely, our police officers were in contact with the Russian policemen detailed to secure the embassy, and reminded the Russians of their responsibilities. According to him, the commotion took place mainly around the embassy, ​​but no direct damage was caused and no one broke in.

Aeg recalled that when Estonia’s Ambassador was attacked at a press conference outside the embassy, she escaped unscathed thanks to the accompanying security police officer, although he had no authority there.

Russian youths attacked the Estonian embassy in 2007

On May 2, 2007, the Estonian embassy in Moscow organized a press conference to explain the Estonian government's decision to transfer the “bronze soldier” to the Defense Forces cemetery. The press conference was supposed to take place in the editorial office of the publication Argumenty i Fakty, but a few minutes before the start of the press conference twenty members of the youth association Nashi broke into it with shouts that fascism would not pass. A scuffle broke out between the Estonian police officers and Nashi members who were in the room, and pepper spray was also used in the building. Estonian Ambassador Marina Kaljurand and the embassy staff were not injured, and some time after the incident, the ambassador started a press conference.

The rioting youths also attacked the ambassador's car standing in front of the editorial office of the publication and tore the Estonian flag from it. At that time, the correspondent of radio station Ekho Moskvy reported that the demonstrators surrounded the Swedish ambassador's vehicle at the Estonian embassy. The mirror on the car was broken, the flag was torn from it, and they tried to prevent the embassy employees from entering the building.

Members of Youth Guards Young Russia and Nashi movements hold a photograph of WWII memorial in Tallinn as they rally outside Estonian Embassy in downtown Moscow Friday, April 27, 2007.
Members of Youth Guards Young Russia and Nashi movements hold a photograph of WWII memorial in Tallinn as they rally outside Estonian Embassy in downtown Moscow Friday, April 27, 2007. Photo: FYODOR SAVINTSEV / AFP / Scanpix

A column of several hundred picketers then marched through the streets of central Moscow without the local militia trying to stop them.

An incident with Nashi activists also took place the next day, when they tried to stop Kaljurand's car attempting to leave the embassy.