Estonia Starts Trial of Pro-Russian Politician Who Travelled to Mariupol
Wednesday, 8 November 2023
The trial of Aivo Peterson, a representative of the Koos/Vmeste movement known for its pro-Russian views, began in Estonia on Tuesday, 7 November.
According to Estonian public broadcaster ERR, Aivo Peterson and Dmitri Rootsi, acting on Russian instructions, are accused of knowingly and systematically assisting Russia and persons acting on behalf of the Russian authorities in non-violent actions against the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Estonia in the period from October 2022 to 10 March 2023.
The defendants took part in deliberate influencing activities to create a political association in Estonia that supports Russia's foreign policy narratives and propaganda theses. They wanted to create an opportunity for Russia to threaten the constitutional order of Estonia, interfere in the country's internal politics, and influence its foreign policy by making such an association.
In addition, Aivo Peterson is accused of giving help to another defendant, Andrey Andronov, in conducting non-violent activities against Estonian independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Estonian State Prosecutor Triinu Olev said Aivo Peterson and Andrey Andronov knowingly participated in Russian information influencing activities, which included, in particular, spreading narratives that support Russian security policy and propaganda theses, both in social media and in Russian state media.
"The accused knowingly assisted Russia in such a way that their activities were against Estonian society and state. The threat to Estonia's security, sovereignty and territorial integrity requires the state's decisive intervention. Recent events vividly demonstrate that Russia is doing everything possible to weaken and divide its neighbouring countries," Olev said.
If they are found guilty of treason,they will face imprisonment for 6 to 20 years or life imprisonment. Being found guilty of non-violent acts against Estonia by a foreigner is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 2 to 15 years.
There was a rally outside the court building on Tuesday in support of Peterson and a fair trial. Activists from different Estonian regions took part in it.
Peterson ran in the elections to the Riigikogu [Estonian parliament – ed.] on the joint electoral list of the United Left Party and Koos in 2023. His election campaign was accompanied by a scandal connected with his trip to the occupied territories of Ukraine, including to the cities of Mariupol and Donetsk.
Peterson appeared in several propaganda videos that also justified the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition, he was seen on one of the programmes broadcast by Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.
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