Tallinn Mayor Told to Prove Legality of Buying Russian-Language TV Programs

Estonian police have required Tallinn’s city authorities to prove that their purchases of TV programs from the Russian-language First Baltic Channel (PBK) are legal and do not violate EU sanctions, mayor Mihhail Kolvart said on Friday.

The First Baltic Channel was created in Latvia to broadcast Russia’s Channel One, as well as news and talk shows in Russian in the Baltic countries. PBK is a part of Riga-based Baltijas Mediju Alianse (BMA).

According to Kolvart, the Estonian Internal Security Service has sent a letter to his office, demanding that it check its contractors for possible links with an individual under EU sanctions and, if these links are detected, terminate cooperation with them. The Tallinn authorities have turned to the Financial Intelligence Unit to find out whether their contractors have the right to provide services to the city and other entities in Estonia.

“Until the Financial Intelligence Unit gives its assessment, we are unfortunately unable to complete the procurement of Russian-language TV programs for the next year and strike contracts for the airtime of programs for the coming year. The activities of Tallinn should run in accordance with laws, but at the moment we do not understand what specific actions are expected from us,” Kolvart said in a press release.

The mayor noted that control over the enforcement of sanctions was within the competence of the Financial Intelligence Unit, not the city government.

According to the mayor, his office has checked BMA’s beneficiaries through the register of legal entities, but not found there any names of persons under international sanctions.

The mayor’s office, therefore, expects “clear answers” from the Financial Intelligence Unit and other state agencies, so that it “could proceed with its work” and understand its responsibilities with regard to this situation.

According to the city authorities, 46.8 percent of Tallinn residents are those whose native language is not Estonian. The city is home to 161 ethnic communities, the largest of which are Russians (164,700 people), Ukrainians (15,400) and Belarusians (7,200).