Russian criticism of Estonia
Dmitri Rogozin, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, made a critical speech on Friday at an Estonian-Russian roundtable held in Estonia. Rogozin said that relations between the two countries could improve if Estonia does not accede to NATO, makes concessions to its non-citizens and stops flinging accusations at Russia. "Unfortunately, the past ten years have brought no steady economic growth, settlement of humanitarian issues or mutual understanding and trust to our two countries. I have to admit that Russia takes more responsibility for this," Rogozin said.
In Rogozin's opinion, Estonia's accession to NATO would lead to the ruin of Estonian relations with Russia. The strengthening and enlargement of NATO is illogical, Rogozin said, adding that it lacks an equal opponent in the world. "Russia has become an open democratic country which cannot be regarded as a potential enemy to NATO. It cannot put up an opposition to NATO already because of its economic situation," he noted. In his interview with the daily Postimees, Rogozin also said, "With regard to NATO, we're asking you to consider one more time how beneficial it would be to you after all. Russia is prepared to give you any security guarantee."
The Estonian Foreign Ministry said statements made by Dmitri Rogozin should not be taken very seriously. Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Harri Tiido told reporters on Friday that Rogozin is a member of Parliament and may say whatever he pleases.
New defense strategy
On Tuesday, the Estonian government approved a military defense strategy that determines the armed forces' action in wartime and peacetime, as well as possible security risks.
The strategy paper stipulates that Estonia will always put up resistance to armed aggression, regardless of the enemy's superiority, Defense Minister Jüri Luik told reporters.
According to the paper, there is no direct military threat to this country at present or in the near future, but the risk of military conflict in Europe exists. According to the document, the starting points of Estonia's defense planning include armed aggression as the most serious security risk to repulse, which is the main task of the national defense forces. Additionally, the strategy focuses on the country's geopolitical position, its proximity to Russia and the security policy goals of joining NATO and the European Union.
Andrus Veerpalu wins championship
Estonia's Andrus Veerpalu won the gold medal in the 30-kilometer classical style race at the cross-country skiing world championship in Lahti, Finland. Veerpalu edged out Norway's Frode Estil by two-tenths of a second, making it one of the closest finishes in the history of the Nordic world championships.
Investigation confirms picture shooting
A defense forces investigation established that four persons—Prime Minister Mart Laar, ex-governor of Võru County Robert Lepikson, internal affairs adviser to the Prime Minister Jaan Tross, and the President's security adviser Eerik-Niiles Kross—shot at a picture of the opposition Center Party leader, Edgar Savisaar, two years ago.
On Tuesday, defense forces commander Rear Admiral Tarmo Kõuts gave preliminary information about the pending in-house investigation on a target shooting incident two years ago to the Parliament's National Defense Committee.
Mart Laar, who has offered a public apology for the incident, has admitted that he may have shot at his political rival's picture during target practice, but that he cannot be 100 percent sure, as he doesn't remember the two-year-old event in detail.
Allar Jõks appointed new legal chancellor
The Riigikogu endorsed on Tuesday the appointment of Allar Jõks, 35, chairman of the Estonian Judges Association, as the new legal chancellor. Jõks collected 72 votes for and 13 against, with four abstentions in the secret ballot. By the constitution, the legal chancellor is appointed for a term of seven years.
Speaking in the Riigikogu, Jõks said he considers it necessary to change emphasis in the supervision of legal acts. He said, "What must be dealt with is averting problems and avoiding conflicts." The new legal chancellor also said the institution of ombudsman needs further development. Asked whether the constitution prevents Estonia's entry into the European Union, Jõks said briefly, "I don't think it does."
Jõks's predecessor Eerik-Juhan Truuväli's term in office expired in June 2000. The position has been vacant since.
Tallinn Mayor weathers no-confidence vote
On Thursday, the second no-confidence vote in the past few months, initiated by the opposition Center Party in the Tallinn City Council against Tallinn Mayor Jüri Mõis, failed.
The motion garnered 26 votes, though there were no votes against, as the ruling power block left the assembly hall for the time of the vote. The motion required a minimum of 33 votes to pass in the 64-seat council.
Mõis and his city government were accused of violating laws in the management of the city's educational expenses, as well as of using the municipal treasury as their personal wallet. Mõis rejected all accusations, claiming that the city government always acts in compliance with the law.
The same day, the Center Party faction handed in another motion of no-confidence against Mõis, accusing him of making scandalous, ethnic hatred-fanning remarks in Finland. The opposition charged the mayor with making nationalistic remarks, based on a Radio Free Europe report that Mõis's recent speech at the Tuglas Society in Finland contained a comparison of Russians to blacks and Turks.
Mõis said, in his Thursday statement to the press, that he was groundlessly reproached for inadequate answers to questions of why there are only a few Russians on the Tallinn City Council and whether Tallinn could one day be a bilingual city.
"Such questions were not even put to me...My position that, similarly to the United States and Germany needing outside labor during different periods of their development, Estonia too has need of it has been given unfriendly twist...I have started legal proceedings to have the misinformation rebutted," the mayor stated.
The new motion will probably come under discussion in two weeks.
And in other news...
- Tallinn Police closed down a pirate CD factory near Tallinn on Wednesday and confiscated color printer cassettes, CD writers and roughly 25,000 CDs. This is the largest quantity of pirated CDs ever discovered in one raid.
- Estonia's Ühispank group took a loss of EEK (Estonian kroons) 99 million (about USD 5.7 million) in 2000. In 1999, the Ühispank group earned EEK 100.2 million in profit.
Kristin Marmei, 26 February 2001
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