How successful is the Kremlin’s punitive action due to Sputnik?


As of yesterday, a month has passed since the Speaker of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matviiyenko, promised tough measures against Estonia due to the restrictions on Sputnik’s activities in the country. A few days later, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zahharova promised an all encompassing and interesting response to the problem.

For the past month and a half, Russia has been plentiful in its messages and condemnations against Estonia in the media. Estonia has been promised counterattacks by Kirill Vyshinsky, the managing director of the RT network, Leonid Slutski, Chairman of the Russian Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Valentina Matvijenko, Speaker of the Russian Federation Duma, Aleksey Pushkov, Chairman of the Committee on International Relations of the Russian Duma. Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, Alexander Lukashevich, Permanent Representative of Russia to the OSCE, the head of the Russian Association of Journalists is Timur Shafir, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakhrova, the chief editor of Rossija Segodnya, Margarita Simonyan, the deputy head of the State Duma Defense Committee, Franz Klinkevich have also condemned Estonia. As well as the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

The European Union, the European Commission, OSCE representatives, the UN, UNESCO, the International Union of Journalists, the Union of Reporters without Borders and others have been called upon to condemn Estonia’s activities.

Did they get revenge?

One month should be long enough to get an idea of the success of the venture. The Foreign media has not demonstrated an avalanche of condemnations and utterances condemning Estonia for restricting Sputnik’s activities. They must be separately searched to verify what has been said in the Russian media.

However, looking over stories in the Russian media on the subject, there is quite a lot of the Kremlin’s condemnations of Estonia. Numerous stories have been published about one or another foreign organization taking note of Estonia on the subject. As you look into it in more depth, you quickly realize that it is the same speech over and over again and on many occasions, mere assertions that Russian statements had been received repeatedly over a long period of time and are being constantly republished.

In the public forum sector during the first month, the OSCE free media spokesperson, Harlem Desir tweeted that he had sent a letter to Estonia asking to reconsider unjustified restrictions on working in foreign media that could restrict the free flow of information.

Anthony Bellanger, Secretary General of the International Union of Journalists, on the initiative of the Union Vice-President and Head of the Union of Russian Journalists, Timur Shafir calls on the Estonian Government to respect the freedom of the press, irrespective of the nationality of the journalists.

The Managing Director of the European Union of Journalists, Ricardo Gutiérrez tweeted referring to a case launched by the Union itself on the context of the Council of Europe’s press protection and safe media monitoring environment. The case draws attention to the condemnation of the Russian Journalists’ Union and the Russian Media Workers’ Union for intimidation of Sputnik employees.

There are still references in the Russian media to the reactions of international organizations but the facts have not been controlled successfully so far. For example, the Russian media claim that the OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger has received and responded to a letter from Margarita Simonjan, the editor in chief of RT. The letter itself or the details of its content cannot be found on the internet.

The Russian language media also tells the story of Farhan Hag, the spokesperson for the United Nations, who received a letter from Russia Today and forwarded it on to the UN High Representative for Human Rights. Russian media also conveyed the UN Secretary General spokesperson, Stephanie Dujarric’s words, that the UN is aware of what is happening with Sputnik and that further efforts will be made to clarify what happened.

In conclusion, the first month has not been successful enough for the Kremlin to provoke international condemnation towards Estonia. At the same time, the activities of Kremlin related individuals suggests that the format of the „harsh retaliation“ is to punish through international organizations and damage Estonia’s reputation among its members.

In all honesty, one month is probably too short a time to see the entire planned penalty action.

Excerpt from Sputnik’s website