MOSCOW: Russia declared Estonian leader Kaja Kallas and other Baltic officials as “wanted” on Tuesday (Feb 13), amid a spat over the removal of Soviet-era war memorials in their countries.
The move marks a further worsening in relations between Russia and the Baltics, all of which were occupied by the Soviet Union and have sizeable Russian minorities.
Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys and Estonian State Secretary Taimar Peterkop were also declared “wanted” by Moscow’s interior ministry, which did not reveal the charges.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said they were added to the list “over the destruction of monuments to Soviet soldiers”.
“Crimes against the memory of the liberators of the world from Nazism and fascism must be punished. And this is just the beginning,” she said.
The interior ministry’s database of wanted people showed Kallas as “wanted under the Criminal Code”, accompanied by a picture of the leader.
The Kremlin said that those declared wanted had taken “hostile actions against historical memory” and Russia.
“These are the people who are responsible for decisions that are actually an abuse of historical memory,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Kairys accused Russia of distorting facts.
“The regime is doing what it has always done: it is trying to stifle freedom… and to continue to create its own version that is at odds with facts or logic,” he told AFP.
There was no immediate reaction from Estonia, which has viewed the monuments as unwelcome symbols of its occupation under the USSR.