The Estonian Internet Foundation is violating sanctions against Russia through a Danish company


EU sanctions have been imposed on Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov. Based on them, the movement of money between companies related to him and Estonian and European companies is prohibited.

Kiseljov is the head of the Russian media group Rossiya Segodnya. Despite sanctions against its leader, Rossiya Segodnya is still moving money and make payments in Estonia. On April 23, 2020, the sanctioned media group paid money to the Estonian Internet Foundation (EISA) for the extension of the Kremlin propaganda portal Baltnews .ee domain.

The money was transferred to EISA’s account through Ascio, a company registered in Denmark. It is an Internet domain registration company founded in 1999 and based in Copenhagen, which offers domain brokerage, management and other services, including, for example, the possibility to hide the domain’s owner.

The company has about 15 employees. A year ago, Ascio bought the Canadian web company Tucows, paying about $30 million for it, making it the manager of an additional 1.8 million domains.

Warning on deaf ears

Propastop warned of the forthcoming violation of sanctions already in February of this year, as well as last week in a letter sent to EISA board member Heiki Sibula and registrar coordinator Silver Sõrmus.

The issue of sanctions against Kiseljov has been discussed in the press since the autumn of 2019 in connection with the termination of activities of Sputnik’s Estonian editorial staff. Sanctions against Russian citizens have been written in the media in other contexts as well. On March 26, Eesti Päevaleht published a comprehensive article about the ties between the TV channel PBK and the sanctioned “Putin’s banker” Yuri Kovalchuk.

Despite all these warnings, however, it seems that EU sanctions can still be violated in Estonia.

The infringement is likely to be possible because the Danish company does not pay enough attention to Rossiya Segodnya’s background, while EISA is dealing with Ascio, which is not subject to sanctions.

If Estonia wants to show that the sanctions of the European Union are not just words with no real empowerment and prevent their violation, the next opportunity is on May 19, 2020. It is on this day that the domain of another Kremlin propaganda portal will expire. It is then expected to be extended by Rossiya Segodnya and another payment via Ascio to the EISA account.

Images: Screenshot from EISA website. Drawing: Propastop.