Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Baltic states ridicule Russia's probe on independence

  • Vilnius: Independence not based on Soviet decisions anyway (Photo: Lee Fenner)

Baltic politicians have ridiculed Russia’s new investigation into the legality of their countries' independence.

“It’s incomprehensible why the Russian Prosecutor General's office would waste its time and resources on this nonsense. The entire issue is legally absurd”, Estonia’s foreign minister, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, told EUobserver.

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Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s FM, told local media it’s “a provocation, to say the least”.

Ivars Lasis, a Latvian foreign ministry spokesman, told this website that “if you follow the logic” of the Russian enquiry, it “also casts a doubt on the legal foundations upon which the sovereignty of the Russian Federation itself is built”.

The comments come after Interfax, a Kremlin mouthpiece, said on Tuesday (30 June) that the prosecutor opened the probe on the request of two MPs.

The question is whether the State Council of the USSR acted in line with the constitution when it recognised the independence of the Baltic states in 1991.

In modern times, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania declared independence in 1918.

They were recognised by other states in the 1920s. But they were invaded and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, before the USSR broke up in 1991.

The prosecutor’s inquest comes after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, last year.

The same prosecutor, last week, ruled that the USSR’s transfer of Crimea to Ukraine, in 1954, was illegal.

History repeating

Fear of history repeating has been fuelled by recent Russian military drills rehearsing an invasion of the Baltic states.

Russian bombers have skirted or violated Baltic airspace on numerous occasions.

Russia, last year, kidnapped an Estonian security officer on Estonian territory and snatched a Lithuanian fishing boat in international waters.

Russian propaganda is also propagating revanchism, with recent polls saying 61 percent of Russians believe that parts of other states belong to them.

For his part, Eerik Kross, an Estonian MP and former intelligence chief, said the prosecutor’s inquiry “goes in the same pot”.

“If they’re taking it seriously, it indicates the overall craziness of the new Russian narrative”.

Nihilism

Latvia’s Lasis said that his country's statehood has, in any case, “de jure” existed since 1921 because most countries never recognised the 1940 annexation.

A senior Lithuanian official said "our statehood derives from 1918, not 1990 ... Russia should more seriously consider its own state's legality and even more so, the legitimacy of its government".

Lauri Malksoo, a scholar at Tartu University in Estonia, described the inquiry as “political noise”.

“Russia has recognised Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in terms of international law, so even if they now have some internal debates regarding the history of their constitutional law, it cannot legally affect the Baltic states”.

The academic, who recently wrote a book called Russian Approaches to International Law, said Moscow’s “twisted” and “disturbing” approach to its legal commitments is nothing new.

“To think that one could challenge internationally valid recognition by challenging the constitutionality of it is, for me, an expression of legal nihilism”, he said.

The Russian embassy to the EU declined to comment when asked by EUobserver. The Prosecutor General's office could not be contacted on Tuesday.

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