Why Estonia wants to classify the Estonian Orthodox Church as a terrorist organization

The churches will not be closed, the authorities announced.

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Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets has announced that he will propose to the Estonian Parliament to declare the Moscow-based Orthodox Patriarchate a terrorist organization.

The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MPEOK) is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate, but will not be designated in the same way under the new designation.

Speaking on a political show, Laanemets stated that the ultimate goal is to prohibit the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Estonia.

MPEOK does not directly reports to Moscow

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, a representative of the MPEOK said the organization does not directly report to the Moscow Patriarchate, or to Patriarch Kirill, and so cannot be held accountable for his statements of support regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Laanemets told the show that, based on his ministry’s knowledge plus a recent assessment from the Internal Security Service (ISS), as minister of the interior, he has no choice but to act to sever the ties between the MPEOK and the Moscow Patriarch.

“Taking the context as a whole, as minister of the interior, I have no choice but to propose to the Riigikogu that they declare the activities of the Patriarchate operating in Moscow as a terrorist organization and supportive of terrorism, so we can go to court and propose the termination of the activities of that church organization”.

“This will not affect congregations, and it does not mean that churches will be closed, but it means that the connection with Moscow will be cut,” Laanemets went on. “We must understand that today the Moscow Patriarchate is subordinate to Vladimir Putin, who fundamentally leads terrorist activities worldwide,” he added.

Russia already declared a terrorist state

According to Laanemets, the Parliament has previously adopted a similar declaration and recognized Russia as a terrorist state.

Laanemets has been interior minister since July 2022 and has called for representatives of the MPEOK to give an account regarding security issues on a total of four occasions.

However, a statement in April adopted by the World Russian People’s Council, an ethno-centric organization, has taken the security situation to the next level, the minister said.

Laanemets noted that there are various MPEOK congregations active in Estonia, and that their internal operations are not directly influenced by Moscow, yet the churches’ subordination to Moscow still poses a threat to Estonia’s security.

The MPEOK has over 100,000 followers in Estonia.


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