Surveillance, wiretapping of telephones, censorship in the media, tax audits of Night Watch activists, and the lack of legal protection – in such ways, the authorities of the Republic of Estonia fight dissent.
… We went to Tallinn to the Night Watch forum, which was supposed to take place last Sunday. The Dozorites timed it to the anniversary of their organization. Exactly a year ago, on May 25, they first went on guard near the Bronze Soldier. Four of us left Riga – two journalists and two members of the Latvian Anti-Fascist Committee. The three of us arrived: the Estonian border guards did not let one LAC member in, stating that he had been on the “black list” since April of this year. At the bus station in Tallinn, the Dozorites met us with another bad news: the director of the hotel, where the meeting room was ordered, refused and returned the money already paid for the rent. This happened after the “Kaposhniks” talked to him – as they call security service representatives (KAPO) in Estonia.
“We are cut off from the media.”
“We’ll go to dinner now and talk there,” Svetlana Kungurova and Igor Grabovsky reassured us. Soon arrived Dimitry Klensky with Alexander Korobov and Yuri Zhuravlev. Tallinn peacefully relaxed on a Saturday evening. In a Russian restaurant, people selflessly danced under Serduchka. “Not afraid to serve Night Watch?” Klensky asked the pretty waitress. “For us, all customers are the same!” – answered the Russian girl. She admitted that she had heard about the Watch, but did not participate in any actions – too much work. During dinner, the Patrolmen began to talk about past events with a sort of incomprehensible initial inspiration. “Inspiration” was soon explained: in Estonia they are almost completely cut off from the media, including Russian speakers.
“All Russian newspapers, with one exception, belong to Estonians, so they don’t notice us in principle, and the Russian publisher is afraid for their business,” said D. Klensky. “The Estonian First Baltic Channel distorted our words so much that now we don’t we’re giving him an interview. We have introduced censorship, and it’s not without reason that right after the April events the issue of closing Russian TV channels was seriously discussed! ” The Night Watch has now remained in complete isolation – practically without legal assistance, without the opportunity to express its position. The authorities are squeezing them one at a time: several people are imprisoned, those remaining at large are under the supervision of the security service, they are tapping phones, surveillance is being conducted, and agents are being introduced into their ranks. Business firms are being hounded by tax police.
“We are not an organization, we are a movement!” – they say “patrolmen.” And they say that they met only a year ago – on the forum of the portal “Delphi”, when they wrote comments on articles that discussed the regular facts of the desecration of the monument to the Warrior-Liberator. The idea came to take the Bronze Soldier under guard. So the paths of these people crossed. So exactly a year ago, on May 25, near the square where the monument stood, the first volunteers stood up in the night watch. On the seventh day of the shift, 1,500 people came to the monument. “We did not have and do not have leaders, and all the attempts of some politicians to lead our movement are only surprising for us. Politicians are looking for ways to make PR, but we do not play these games,” Alexander and Yuri calmly explain.
“The authorities were preparing for the riots”
“The leader, indisputable and respected, was perhaps only one person – Vlad Studenetsky. – Svetlana and Igor say. – He died on March 9 of this year. We still haven’t recovered after his unexplained death. He was healthy, an energetic man, an athlete. It is known that on the eve of his death he was summoned to KAPO, the next day he also had two meetings about which no one, not even his wife, knew anything, and after them he returned home and died. The official version is an extensive heart attack “We demanded an examination, but we were refused.”
What happened on Tõnismägi on April 26 is called “spontaneous protest.” The whole year the theme of the demolition of the monument was exaggerated, and when the dismantling work began and it was reported on the radio, people came to see what was happening with their own eyes. “We ourselves did not expect that 6,000 would gather. It seemed that the Russian population had long ago come to terms with their second-rate position!” They admit. And they add that today they are trying to lay the blame for all the bloodshed on the Night Watch. Although they did not call for unrest. Moreover, when analyzing the facts, it becomes clear that the authorities were preparing for these riots in advance: soldiers of military service canceled all holidays before May 15, and exercises began to overcome the barricades. Hospitals procured bandages – doctors were told that a large influx of patients was expected soon.
“And why were there many Estonians at the monument that night? It is unlikely that they came to defend the monument!” Exclaims Klensky. in tracksuits, they were clearly going to rob stores. Someone saw one Estonian group and one Russian exchange goods from the stolen stores. We joked that finally the Russians and Estonians united. ” Svetlana adds: “My friend saw how an Estonian guy suddenly appeared at the library with a full bag of stones, she was even more surprised how he dragged it! And he left the bag and ran away. And these stones then went into action.”
Human rights defenders are enemies of Estonia
The Old Town has a Human Rights Information Center. The only place where a person injured during the April riots can get legal assistance in a democratic Estonia. The center exists on grants from Belgium and the Netherlands, therefore it is independent of the state. 55 people came here. There were 1,200 detainees by the police. Lawyer Mstislav Rusakov explains: there are few complaints because people are afraid – after all, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia and other officials stated that there were no violations by law enforcement agencies, and those who claim the opposite are Estonian enemies. By the way, the Center for Human Rights has also recently been included in this list.
“Our oldest victim is a 69-year-old woman, and the youngest is a 14-year-old boy,” Mstislav explains. – We help the victims to write an official statement to the Chancellor of Justice and the prosecutor’s office and ask to initiate a criminal case in connection with the unjustified use of force by the police. Many people got to the epicenter quite by accident, but were beaten by the police and sent either to the arrest houses or to the terminal. I believe that if a connected person was forced to squat for 4-6 hours, was not allowed to drink and was not allowed to go to the toilet, was put on his knees and beaten with iron batons, then this is not just an abuse of power by the police. This is the use of torture! And they are prohibited by article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.
In addition, the law requires that relatives of the detainee be informed of this during the transfer to prisons. This has not been done. Many found their relatives only after 4 days, and some are still searching! Authorities explain the ban on communicating with relatives and lawyers as “investigative interests.” Just a few minutes before your arrival, people called who found out that their relative was in Tartu Prison with a broken nose and a broken eye – he handed over a note to the will. It is clear why the authorities are hiding him – it is unlikely that such injuries can be explained by the “interests of the investigation.”
According to Mstislav, there is very little hope that these complaints will be satisfied by the Estonian authorities. Although the lawyers of the center attach medical statements and photographs to a number of statements confirming the facts of limb fractures, hematomas from strokes, and head injuries. To date, the only positive answer has been received by an elderly German, who, however, acted through his lawyer: a criminal case has been opened against those who beat him in the terminal. But one thing is a foreigner, quite another – their own inhabitants.
The SIIN Youth Organization (“Here”) is the only Russian organization out of fifty that is a member of the Estonian Youth Union. It consists of 585 people. For six years, schoolchildren and students, together with their Estonian and European peers, wrote projects, organized discussions, learned civic activism and strengthened the integration process in their native country. True, an attempt to enter the youth council of the Tallinn City Hall in order to really influence youth policy failed. And in this council, as it was not, there is not a single Russian. But last year – for the first time – SIIN received funding from the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Estonia. In March of this year, funding for next year was approved. And on May 9 a notice came – to cancel the previous decision.
“A message immediately appeared in an Estonian newspaper:“ Anti-Estonian young people were left without benefits, ”says Maya Meos, head of the organization.“ Now we are on the verge of bankruptcy, because we did not write the European project, knowing about state support. ” What are these guys guilty of? One member of the organization, a 12th grade student, Mark Sirak, is accused of organizing riots. Maya says that Mark was a very active child: in addition to participating in SIIN, he was a member of the Estonian Union of Pupil School Municipalities and an intern at the European voluntary service. He planned to enter the pedagogical institute for the specialty “youth worker”. Mark took an active part in the actions in defense of the monument, and even then the “kaposhniki” took pictures of all the guys and sent photos to the schools, establishing their identity.
Mark, according to Maya, was detained for checking documents on the afternoon of April 26, stripped to his underpants and thrown into a cold cell for 2 hours. After leaving the police, Mark drove home. Since childhood, suffering from blood disease hemophilia, the boy was not feeling well. In the evening I stayed at home – in the morning I had to take an exam in social studies. I learned about the events near the monument on TV. In the morning I went to school. On the way, he was detained by security officers. Two days later, a trial took place that sentenced the guy to a 6-month arrest. Mothers were allowed to meet with their son only after the intervention of the Latvian MP from EP Tatyana Zhdanok, who personally came to Tallinn.
How can one be accused of organizing unrest of a person who was at home at that time? It turns out that you can: Mark allegedly directed by phone, sending SMS messages, where he promised to pay 80 crowns to those who would come to the monument. “I specifically asked our guys to show the phones – they received SMS messages from Mark on April 20, they didn’t say a word about money. Just the phrase:“ Come and stay with the soldier, ”Maya explains.
In order to help her student, Maya sent 50 letters to all human rights organizations, including the European Ombudsman. The answer came from the latter: we cannot offer financial assistance, but the matter will be under control. Youth organizations were silent in silence. It turns out that the Council of Europe, financing SIIN projects, taught Russian youth civic activism, and when they showed and suffered it, left it to their fate! Naturally, the Estonian Youth Union also dismissed its yesterday’s comrades. How else, if the Minister of Education called them extremists!
… They left Tallinn with a heavy heart. The feeling of deja vu never left – events in Estonia very much resembled our school revolution. But if the Russian community of Latvia was more united and organized, then here the protest against the anti-Russian policy resulted in the classical scenario in a Russian revolt, if not senseless, then merciless. Corpses of people with signs of beating are still found in Tallinn – in a pond, in a car, in apartments. There are still wanted 20 people missing during the April riots …