Russia Just Declared a Western Leader a 'Wanted Person'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Kaja Kallas, Estonia's prime minister, during an interview in her office in Tallinn, Estonia, on Jan. 16, 2024. Credit - Peter Kollanyi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was declared a “wanted” person by Russia’s interior ministry on Tuesday.

The ministry listed Kallas on a database as “wanted under the criminal code,” marking the first time Russia has brought a criminal case against the head of a foreign government.

The 46-year-old appears alongside Estonia’s State Secretary Taimar Peterkop and Lithuania’s Culture Minister Simonas Kairys, whose charges were not outlined in the database.

The move appears to reflect Moscow’s increasing attempt to pressure NATO allies. Though the three Baltic politicians would face arrest if they crossed into Russia, in practical terms contact has frozen since Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, said that Kallas is a wanted person on the grounds of “desecration of historical memory,” according to Reuters. He told reporters, “These are the people who take hostile actions against historical memory and our country.”

In 2022, Kallas called for the dismantling of 200 to 400 Soviet-era monuments in Estonia to prevent them “from mobilising more hostility in society and tearing open old wounds,” the government said at the time. Estonia, alongside the Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania, were the last to join the Soviet Union and the first to gain independence in 1991 following its collapse. The three nations are also NATO and E.U. members.

Read More: Kaja Kallas is on the TIME100 Next 2022 List

The head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, launched a criminal investigation into these efforts to dismantle the monuments.

Kallas, who trained as a lawyer, joined the liberal Estonian Reform Party in 2011 as a Member of Parliament before becoming leader of the party in 2018. She became Prime Minister at the start of 2021, following the resignation of the Centre Party’s Jüri Ratas.

Kallas has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine since the war began. “We believe in Ukraine, which is a country with liberal democracy and a free-market economy and which will become a member of the European Union and NATO,” Kallas said last month at a meeting with Zelensky.

“The stronger Ukraine is, the faster the breaking point arrives for Russia,” she added.

Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com.