Saturday, March 17, 2007

Estonica: Interestinger

A couple of days ago, I asked what one would need 20 kilos of explosives to blow up in Estonia. Word on the street was the substance found by the cops was TNT. The Lasnamae bomber story from a few years back tells us that 200 grams of TNT is enough to bring down half of an apartment block.

Police are looking for two men in connection with the explosives raid. One is Aleksei Golubtsov, who was released from prison in the fall of last year after being convicted of murdering a police officer in 1994. The other is Vladimir Muraviov, who is connected to the Night Watch - the local pro-Russian group heavily involved in the Bronze Soldier mess. Both men have Russian citizenship.

I won't be so sensationalist as to claim that Night Watch was planning to blow up the Pronkssõdur, but this is disturbing. Explosives, cop-killers... that isn't supposed to be an issue in Estonia in 2007.

What we do know is that the North-Estonian police staged an unprecedented raid - cutting off traffic to a busy downtown street during Monday rush hour - in a country where the guy running the country doesn't merit so much as a squad car escort, and the national security forces had a press-conference last year to tell everyone how excited they were to finally get an armored limousine that can be used for foreign dignitaries; previously, if someone important didn't bring their own tank, we had to ask the Finns if we could borrow one.

What this does remind me of, is something that happened a few years ago - a wave of murders across Estonia by two cadets from a St. Petersburg military college. One of them was killed, the other wounded in a gunfight by a daring Polish border guard and brought to justice. The conspiracy theorists back then said that this was a sort of field training gone wrong, and that the cadets were being trained as covert agents by the Russian secret service; and that it may very well have been a test of the effectiveness of Estonian law enforcement.

Discovering 20 kilograms of TNT a week after the general elections that saw the major party playing to Russian interests driven out into opposition, a prime-minister openly hostile to the Russian interests getting an enormous vote of confidence, and a nationalist party looking like the obvious choice for a coalition partner - with its leader as likely the next foreign minister - makes one see a pattern of sorts. Russia's control apparatus is getting twitchy, faced with the end of Putin's second term next year. The EU has failed to bite on Russia's provocative behavior in regards to the Baltics, Poland, Moldova (a neighbor of new EU member Romania), the expressly pro-Western Georgia... And let's not forget the big new pipeline that is to be laid along the Baltic seabed, to pump natural gas from Russia into Central Europe, bypassing Ukraine and increasingly uncontrollable Belarus, seat of what has been described as Europe's last dictator - who, much like Tito to the Soviet Union, is refusing to fetch Putin's slippers any more.

I'm a skeptical person, and I tend to believe the simpler explanation first, but when you ask yourself not only what somebody would be doing with twenty kilos of trinitrotoluene in Estonia, but where that somebody would get it - even I start looking east with suspicion.

Interestinger and interestinger.

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