Amid increasingly heightened tensions with its eastern behemoth of a neighbor, Estonia’s new three-party coalition government, the second of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, has announced its intention to deny Russian and Belarusian citizens from owning firearms.
In its coalition agreement, the new government—comprised of the liberal, EU federalist Reform Party, the establishment left-wing Social Democratic Party (SDE), and the center-right Isamaa party—states: “The weapons permits of citizens of the Russian Federation and Belarus will be repealed and new permits will not be issued,” Estonian press organ ERR News reports.
According to recent statements made by incoming interior minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE), the weapons ban, which he says may extend to anyone who’s previously expressed unfriendliness toward Estonia or Ukraine, would likely be implemented sometime later this year.
“Because there are bound to be people with Estonian citizenship who could sport anti-Estonian or anti-Ukrainian views and ideas not compatible with the security situation today. It means they need to be addressed,” Läänemets, who heads the SDE party, told ERR last Friday.
The announcement comes after the Estonian Association of Gun Owners in early March—on the heels of Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine—called for an amendment to the country’s Weapons Act that would allow only Estonian, EU, and NATO citizens to legally own and handle firearms and ammunition within Estonia’s borders.
The association, in a letter addressed to then interior minister Kristjan Jaani (Center Party), highlighted the fact that some 1,300 Russian citizens with weapons permits and registered firearms presently reside in Estonia, and called for those weapons permits in the hands of citizens of Russia and those of its allied states to be immediately revoked.
The proposed weapons ban has support in the main opposition party as well, with Anti Poolamets, a lawmaker for the sovereigntist Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), recently saying that his party believes Russian citizens’ weapons permits ought to be repealed.
Presently, some 320,000 ethnic Russians live in Estonia, comprising around 24% of the Baltic country’s total population. The majority are concentrated in the capital city Tallinn, and in other urban areas in Harju and Ida-Viru counties.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.