Russian police have put Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and other senior officials on the wanted list because of her efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II monuments in the Baltic nation, multiple reports said quoting the Russian Interior Ministry’s database.
As per a report in Reuters, the name of Estonia’s PM Kallas, Lithuania’s culture minister and members of the previous Latvian parliament were put on the Interior Ministry’s register of people wanted on criminal charges.
It is the first time the Russian Interior Ministry has put a foreign leader on a wanted list. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that Kallas and others were put on the list because of their involvement in the removal of monuments.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kallas was wanted for desecration of historical memory, Reuters reported.
In response, Kaja Kallas called Russia’s move nothing, but surprising. “This is yet more proof that I am doing the right thing – the EU’s strong support to Ukraine is a success and it hurts Russia,” she said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Russia’s move is nothing surprising.
— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) February 13, 2024
“Throughout history, Russia has veiled its repressions behind so-called law enforcement agencies. I know this from my family history. When my grandmother and mother were deported to Siberia, the KGB issued the arrest warrant,” she added.
Estonia, along with other NATO members including Latvia and Lithuania, have sought to remove the monuments widely seen as a legacy of Soviet occupation of the countries.
The countries have already demolished most of their Soviet-era monuments, including those commemorating Soviet soldiers killed in the Second World War following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
However, Russia has denounced the move as a desecration of the memory of Soviet soldiers who were killed while fighting the Nazis. Under the Russian criminal code, destroying monuments is punishable by a 5-year prison term.
The inclusion of Kallas, who calls for increased military assistance to Ukraine and sanctions against the Kremlin, comes amid Moscow’s effort to up the ante in the face of pressure from NATO allies.
The Baltic states were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, then occupied by Nazi Germany before returning to Moscow’s rule. However, these nations regained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. All three are members of the European Union and NATO, and their relations with Russia have worsened since the Ukraine War.