Estonian Minister softens language about call to recognize Russian Church as “terrorist organization”

Tallinn, April 19, 2024

Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets. Photo: Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets. Photo:     

Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets announced on live TV last week that he intends to petition the Riigikogu—Estonian Parliament—to recognize the Moscow Patriarchate as a terrorist organization.

His statement came after the publication of a document from the World Russian People’s Council that speaks about the war in Ukraine as a “holy war” and talks in-depth about the “Russian World” concept.

Meanwhile, Ahti Kallikorm, a member of the Isamaa (Fatherland) Party, called on the state to break its church leases with the Estonian Orthodox Church (an autonomous body within the Moscow Patriarchate).

However, the Minister has since softened his language, saying no one has any intention of labeling the Church as “terrorist,” and that no property will be taken from the Church.

At a government press conference yesterday, Läänemets said Estonia has no plans of labeling the Church as a terrorist organization, though the relevant bill still refers to the Church as an accomplice of Russian aggression, reports

“The proposal to declare any Church a terrorist one did not come from the Minister of Internal Affairs, and the government also has no such desire, neither in relation to the Orthodox Church operating in Russia, nor in relation to the Orthodox Church operating in Estonia,” the Minister said.

He added that all churches should remain open, that there are no plans to take any buildings away.

“The only issue is a meaningful connection with the Moscow Patriarchate. We prefer that the Church do this (severing ties with Moscow) on its own, taking all the necessary steps. We are ready to support the Church and communities in every possible way” said Läänemets.

However, it is not clear what Läänemets believes should happen if the Estonian Church declines to separate from the Moscow Patriarchate. In a statement last week, the Church explained that, according to Church statutes, as an autonomous body within the Moscow Patriarchate, it has no authority to change its own status.

According to the Minister, it is planned to establish direct contact with the parishes and clarify the security situation.

The final version of the bill reflects this somewhat softened language. It was submitted earlier this week with 52 signatures, entitled, “Declaration of the Moscow Patriarchate as an institution supporting the military aggression of the Russian Federation.”

At the same time, the bill still speaks of the Moscow Patriarchate as a threat to national security. Recall that the Estonian Church primate, His Eminence Metropolitan Evgeny of Tallinn, was deemed a threat to national security and forced to leave the country in February.

And despite Läänemets’ assurances, Tallinn Mayor Evgeny Osinovsky told that the new city authorities are ready to sue the Estonian Church if it disagrees with the termination of real estate lease agreements. His office has already initiated the process of terminating the lease for the Metropolitan’s office.

Earlier, he told the same outlet that the authorities are ready to conclude new agreements with a new legal entity, meaning the Estonian Orthodox Church in separation from the Moscow Patriarchate.

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