According to official information, Russia has put Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and other high-ranking Baltic politicians on a wanted list. “These are the people who took hostile actions against the historical memory and our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained the move on Tuesday, according to the Interfax news agency. A wanted notice for Kallas was previously visible on the Russian Interior Ministry’s website. Accordingly, the Estonian head of government is wanted in Russia for “a criminal matter” – no further details were initially given.

In addition to Kallas, the Estonian State Secretary Taimar Peterkop and Lithuania’s Culture Minister Simonas Kairys are also on the wanted list of the Russian Interior Ministry, according to the media. There was no immediate comment from Kallas and her office. A spokesman for Kairys could not confirm the matter. Since none of them are planning a trip to Russia in view of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the step is likely to be primarily symbolic.

The Russian authorities specifically accuse the Balts of demolishing Soviet war memorials. “We have to answer for crimes against the memory of the liberators of the world from Nazism and fascism. And that’s just the beginning,” wrote ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Telegram. Sakharova explicitly referred her statements to Kallas and Peterkop.

In the summer of 2022, a few months after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Estonia demolished a Soviet war memorial – a replica of a T-34 tank with a red star – in Narva on the border with Russia. There were isolated protests in the city against this. “We will not give Russia the opportunity to use the past to disrupt the peace in Estonia,” said Kallas, citing, among other things, the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As a result of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, which has been going on for two years, relations between Moscow and the Baltic states are extremely tense. Kallas is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s harshest critics. She has been at the head of the government in Estonia since 2021.

In 2007, the relocation of a bronze statue, another Soviet war memorial, from a park in Tallinn to the city’s outskirts sparked days of protests. One person was killed in the riots and more than 1,000 people were arrested. Russian-speaking Estonians said removing the monument would erase their history.

In Lithuania, too, some Soviet-era monuments were dismantled after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “I am glad that my work to remove the ruins of Sovietization has not gone unnoticed,” Kairys commented on his inclusion on the Russian list, which he only became aware of through the media, and added: “Seriously: the regime is doing what it always does has done: it seeks to suppress every hint of freedom, to fight against democracy, against human rights and freedoms and to continue to invent its own story that does not correspond to any facts or logic.”

The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which repeatedly warn against the Kremlin’s further military ambitions, had already declared themselves independent of the Soviet Union before the Soviet Union ceased to exist at the end of December 1991. The three states found themselves occupied by the Soviets. Moscow, on the other hand, sees itself as the “liberator” of these countries and describes any other view as “falsification of history,” which is a criminal offense in Russia.

Note: The official name of Peterkop has been corrected. He is Secretary of State, not Foreign Minister.