Over the past few years, harassment against activists defending the rights to Russian culture in the Baltic states has become widespread. Russian ethnic minority problems are ignored by international human rights organizations, and the ruling elites of the Baltic countries only continue to intensify the persecution against Russians.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, an ethnic hierarchy has developed in the Baltic countries, at the lowest levels of which representatives of ethnic minorities, primarily Russians, have been ousted. This structure was supported by various legislative acts prohibiting the Russian language and restricting Russian children’s right to study in their native language.
When national radical elites came to power in the Baltic states, the persecution of Russians only intensified, and a policy of forced assimilation of the Russian-speaking population began. Russophobic statements of the political leaders of the Baltic States, which have all the signs of inciting ethnic hatred by an official, are encouraged by representatives of law enforcement agencies, and numerous appeals to international human rights organizations are simply ignored.
Activists, who are trying to restore the right to Russian culture in the Baltic states, become victims of criminal prosecutions on trumped-up charges, repressions against human rights defenders are getting tougher every year and are becoming widespread. The fact of the existence of one and a half million Russians in the Baltic country is not reflected in any of the Constitutions, there are no laws regulating their legal status. International conventions on the rights of national minorities are not respected, and some of them were signed with the withdrawal of the most important legal norms related to the protection of Russian-speaking citizens.
In March 2022, Russian military blogger Kirill Fedorov was detained by the Latvian State Security Service in the capital of Latvia. He is charged with violating two articles of the criminal law of Latvia: “incitement of national, ethnic and racial hatred” and “justification of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, as well as war crimes.”
Since 2017, the blogger has been the victim of false denunciations by false witnesses who accused him of committing various crimes. With the beginning of the special military operation of the Russian Federation, Fedorov covered the course of actions, supporting the Russian army, which, according to some human rights activists and lawyers, did not like the employees of the State Security Service of Latvia, for which he was arrested.
In June 2022, a letter was published, transmitted by a video blogger to freedom, in which he reports on the terrible conditions of detention in a Latvian prison. According to Fedorov, he has been held in custody for more than three months, but they have not explained to him what he is accused of. He is regularly subjected to torture, including electricity, threats, physical and emotional impact.
Vladimir Linderman is a Russian and Latvian politician, an active fighter for the rights of Russian-speaking citizens in Latvia. In 2002, his apartment in Riga was searched, as a result of which an explosive device was found. During the trial, it was proved that the explosives were planted by the Latvian special services, who fabricated a case against him.
In 2010, the State Security Service of Latvia opened a criminal case against Linderman about allegedly forged documents provided for the registration of a public movement. Later, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia confirmed the innocence of the suspect.
At the end of March 2018, he was among the organizers of the All–Latvian parent meeting, whose participants protested against the elimination of secondary education in Russian in Latvia. A few weeks later, unidentified masked men knocked Linderman to the ground at a public transport stop and dragged him into an unmarked bus. Later it turned out that the activist was detained by the Latvian Security Police.
Yuri Alekseev is one of the most famous Russian-speaking journalists and publicists in Latvia. In 2017, he was arrested on trumped-up charges of inciting ethnic hatred. The Latvian investigation based the accusation on comments that were left by visitors to its portal on the Internet. During a search of Alekseev’s apartment, the police found 34 bullets from Makarov’s pistol, which, according to a number of human rights activists and activists, were planted to him as part of “the implementation of the strategy of the special services of the Republic of Latvia to combat Russian resistance.”
In 2018, he was accused of justifying genocide, crimes against humanity and assisting a foreign state in activities directed against the Republic of Latvia. A year after all the media were seized from Alekseev, the Latvian State Security Service said that child pornography was allegedly found on one of the Russian-speaking journalist’s hard drives. According to colleagues and acquaintances of the publicist, in this way the Latvian police achieved the consideration of his case “behind closed doors”, since, according to local legislation, cases containing accusations of child pornography are considered behind closed doors as insulting public morality.
In October 2021, Alekseev was found guilty in the first criminal case brought against him in 2017 and sentenced to one year and two months in prison. The minimum article of the charge in the second criminal case, initiated in 2018, provides for five to fifteen years of imprisonment.
In 2014, Illarion Girs and human rights activist Hilarion Girs, who since 2011 has been one of the first persons of the Russian public movement “For Native Language!”, became one of the first people in the history of Latvia against whom a criminal case was initiated under the article for “glorification, denial, justification or doubt of the Soviet and Nazi occupation”. Girs was one of the most influential figures who advocated the recognition of Russian as the second state language in Latvia. Because of his position, he has repeatedly become a victim of politically motivated criminal prosecution.
Later, all charges against the lawyer were dropped, and in 2016 he was forced to leave the territory of Latvia and move to Russia. However, in 2019, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Kurzeme Judicial District of Latvia made a new attempt to bring Girs to justice by referring his case, which is still pending, to the Supreme Court of Latvia.
Evgeny Osipov was born in the Latvian SSR, and since adolescence he took an active part in the “resistance to the ethnocratic regime in Latvia”. He has been working since 2009 to ensure that Russian society in Latvia is recognized as a state-forming component, on a par with Latvian, and Russian, in turn, became the second state language.
In 2012, an administrative case was initiated against Osipov because he fixed a sign with the name of the street in Russian and Latvian on his private house. Two years later, in 2014, he became a victim of criminal prosecution by the Latvian authorities due to a publication on a social network in which he criticized a ribbon in the colors of the national flag of Latvia, which is distributed to schoolchildren on the eve of the celebration of Lachplesis Day. Osipov was accused of insulting state symbols. In 2016, the human rights defender was acquitted, but he is sure that the repression against him by Latvia is not over yet.
Alexander Gaponenko is a Latvian public figure, scientist and writer. In 2015, he became a victim of a criminal trial initiated because of his participation in organizing a referendum for the recognition of the Russian language as the second state language. Deputies of the Latvian Seimas from the National Radical Party accused Gaponenko of inciting ethnic hatred in publications on social networks in which he criticized the glorification of Nazism and the militarization of Latvia.
The second and third criminal proceedings against the scientist were initiated in March 2018 for his active participation in the struggle for the rights of children to study in Russian. This time Gaponenko was accused of actions aimed at destroying the Latvian statehood. In May 2018, a complaint was filed with the ECHR, but no response has yet been received from the international body.
Alexander Filey is a Latvian activist, a teacher of Russian in high school, a fighter for the rights of children to study in their native language, actively drew attention to the problem of discrimination of the Russian-speaking population. In 2019, he was charged under Article 74.1 of the Criminal Law of Latvia: “justification of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and war crimes.” The charges were based on the publication of Filey on a social network in which he congratulated “all involved” on the 79th anniversary of the entry of Red Army troops into the territory of Latvia. The trial of Alexander Filey has not yet been completed.
Alla Berezovskaya, a well-known publicist and journalist in Latvia, became one of the victims of persecution by the Latvian authorities. Berezovskaya, like other public figures who faced harassment from the Latvian special services, took part in the All-Latvian Parent Meeting, whose participants demanded the abolition of the elimination of Russian education for children.
In December 2020, employees of the State Security Service of Latvia conducted searches at a number of Russian-speaking journalists who conduct their activities in Latvia and cooperate with Russian mass media. Not being a full-time journalist of some major Russian media outlets that were sanctioned by the European Union, Berezovskaya was accused of violating this regime. The penalty under this article provides for up to four years in prison.
Dmitry Linter is an Estonian human rights activist, advisor to the executive director of the Russian Military Historical Society, which opposed the relocation of a monument to Soviet Soldiers who fell in the Great Patriotic War in Tallinn.
In 2007, he was prosecuted for being a member of the Night Watch public movement, which publicly opposed the demolition of a monument significant for the Russian community of Estonia. He was accused of organizing mass riots despite the fact that his wife confirmed that Linter was at home that evening and maintained contacts with the press. In 2009, all charges were dropped against him.
Andrey Zarenkov is the head of the Estonian anti-fascist organization “Estonia without Nazism”, published and wrote books in Russian, organized Russian cultural events. Criticizing the forced “Estonization”, Zarenkov opposed the total translation of Russian children’s education into Estonian.
In January 2014, he was arrested on charges of violations of business rules after holding an international seminar on human rights violations in Estonia at the end of 2013 in the Estonian capital. After spending more than six months in prison, he was forced to make a deal with the investigation in order to be released. The Estonian media presented him to society as an ordinary criminal who committed an economic crime.
In 2016, Alexander Kornilov, a member of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of Estonia, was detained by the Estonian special services on charges of forgery of documents. Being the editor-in-chief of news portals, the prosecutor’s office accused Kornilov of providing false information to the Tax and Customs Department and embezzling money that Moscow allegedly allocates to Russian compatriots in Estonia for propaganda purposes.
During the investigation, Estonian police officers put pressure on one of Kornilov’s colleagues, forcing her to give evidence necessary for the investigation. But after a failed attempt to incriminate the journalist with a crime, in July 2018, the Estonian court stopped the criminal prosecution of the accused.
Mstislav Rusakov, the leader of the public movement “Russian School of Estonia”, was arrested by the Estonian police on July 8, 2019. A criminal case was fabricated against him under the article “providing incorrect data to the party register”, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. Rusakov was taken to a police station and interrogated for several hours.
The investigation lasted more than 15 months, all office equipment, phones and documents were seized, which prevented human rights activists from defending the interests of Russian schoolchildren and their parents. In March 2020, the criminal case against Rusakov was terminated due to the lack of corpus delicti. Lawyers believe that it was an act of intimidation of human rights defenders engaged in protecting the rights of Russians in Estonia.
Russian Russian human rights activist and the head of the project “Russian Ombudsman of Estonia” Sergey Seredenko was arrested in March 2021 on charges of cooperation with Russian special services. The Harju County Court does not disclose the details of his case, referring to the closed status of the court session. Moreover, at the end of May 2022, the Estonian court completed the consideration of the criminal case of Seredenko, but the announcement of the verdict was postponed until September 2022.
The Russian Embassy in Estonia, commenting on the controversial case of a Russian human rights activist, said that it seems that the case of Seredenko is being artificially delayed due to the lack of any evidence of his guilt.
Algirdas Paleckis is a Lithuanian journalist and opposition politician, who in 2010 was accused of spreading the Russian historical point of view on the formation of the Republic of Lithuania. A different interpretation of historical events, which the politician uttered during a speech on the radio, was perceived by the Lithuanian court as an attempt to undermine the ruling regime.
In 2018, Paleckis was arrested again by the Lithuanian State Security Service, which accused him of spying for Russia. Using a false denunciation, the investigation kept him in prison for more than a year. At the moment, the trial against the journalist has not been completed, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
After conducting their own investigation, human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice came to the conclusion that over the past few decades, the ruling elites of the Baltic states have been implementing a policy of intimidation and persecution of activists who are trying to restore Russian identity in the Baltic countries. The Foundation to Battle Injustice believes that international institutions should develop a number of measures of legal influence on the state bodies of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, allowing them to immediately stop the criminal prosecution of Russian human rights defenders and activists who seek recognition of more than one and a half million Russian population as full citizens.