Estonian government collapses amid fears of Russian security threat

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Soldiers from the Royal Welsh Battlegroup take part in Nato exercises in Estonia on May 25 - Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Images Europe
Soldiers from the Royal Welsh Battlegroup take part in Nato exercises in Estonia on May 25 - Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Images Europe

Estonia’s government has collapsed amid fears Moscow is attempting to destabilise the country, which is hosting a key Nato deployment of British troops.

Kaja Kallas, the prime minister, accused her coalition partners of “actively working against Estonia’s core values” in the face of the Russian security threat.

Her liberal Reform party was in an uneasy alliance with the Centre party, which only cut its long-standing ties with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party after the invasion of Ukraine.

“The security situation in Europe does not give me any opportunity as prime minister to continue cooperation with the Centre party,” Ms Kallas said before a backdrop of the flags of the EU, Estonia and Nato.

The crisis, which was triggered after Centre voted against the government on an education bill, comes before a June Nato summit in Madrid on strengthening Nato’s eastern flank.

The UK doubled troop numbers in Estonia to about 1,650 after the invasion of Ukraine and leads a multinational Nato battlegroup there.

There are suspicions that Russia was attempting to use parties such as Centre to try and soften Estonia’s response to the Ukraine war.

“Many Estonians, including myself, fear that political players sharing the Kremlin’s interests are attempting to take over the Estonian government,” Rein Raud, the Estonian author, said.

Ms Kallas has urged tough EU sanctions against Moscow and, under her leadership, Estonia has sent more military support per capita to Ukraine than any other country.

At her request, the president of Estonia sacked all seven Centre party ministers from her 15-member Cabinet, including foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets, as the coalition crumbled to leave behind a minority government.

Reform plans to hold coalition talks with the right-wing Isamaa conservatives and the Social Democrats.

If those talks fail, former prime minister Jüri Ratas, Centre’s leader, can try and form his own coalition government to replace Ms Kallas.

That could be with the hard-right EKRE, which is a former coalition partner of Centre, and also voted against the education bill.

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