The exclusive story appeared in Eesti Päevaleht on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 and can be fully accessed here in Estonian.
A very rare decision was taken by a Tallinn court this Monday – in fact it was the first of its kind – an Estonian citizen being charged with terrorism was allowed to be extradited. This will probably lead to handing over the alleged terrorist to Ukrainian authorities. No previous terrorism-related case in Estonia has got this far before.
Judicial proceedings got underway rapidly in February, when Estonian Security Police arrested 34-year-old Vladimir while he was making his way to Russia. The man was apprehended in a coach at Narva border crossing – his aim was to travel through Russia to Eastern-Ukraine.
A search carried out later discovered an illegal gun and ammunition in his possession. Vladimir’s plan was to join a gang fighting against Ukrainian government in Lugansk.
And this was not his first visit to Ukraine. It has been established that he went to fight in Lugansk region also in June and November last year, spending roughly a month there on both occasions.
Because it is the first case of this kind for Estonian judicial system, there are few public details. But the Estonian State Prosecutor’s Office was able to shed a little light on the case.
“On both occasions when Vladimir went to Ukraine he joined an armed group that was active in Lugansk region, which - according to information obtained from Ukraine – aimed to commit terrorist crimes against the state of Ukraine,” said Lead-Prosecutor Steven-Hristo Evestus to Eesti Päevaleht.
“According to evidence already gathered, Estonian citizen Vladimir participated in guarding and moving of prisoners taken by his unit. But it cannot be ruled out that he might have taken part in battles against the state of Ukraine,” added Evestus. The prosecutor let it be understood that Vladimir did not travel to Eastern-Ukraine as a backpacker in search of adventure, but knew going to Lugansk already the first time why and with whom he was joining.
Vladimir’s background does not suggest he is the most honest person. His criminal record lists an incident when he beat to death another man. Why? Because the man crossed the street too slowly and Vladimir’s nerves, who was sitting in the waiting car, gave up. To avoid punishment Vladimir escaped Estonia and joined the French Foreign Legion. Upon returning to Estonia he was arrested and had to serve out his sentence. In addition Vladmir’s record shows that he has been arrested after driving a car while under the influence of narcotic drugs.
Twist and extradition
The case concerning Vladimir’s participation in a terrorist grouping was initiated based on information gathered by the Security Police. But Ukraine’s State Prosecutor’s office was also asked to participate – they visited Estonia to familiarise themselves with the investigation.
Two weeks ago the Estonian prosecutors and Vladimir were close to a plea-bargain, but Vladimir hit the brakes on the very last minutes – at the courtroom. But this last minute change of mind can cost him dearly, because Ukrainian State Prosecutor’s office submitted Estonian authorities with an extradition request and this is the direction things are now moving towards. Meaning that Vladimir will probably face the court in Ukraine.
The Estonian criminal case will remain open until the results of the Ukrainian investigation become clear, said prosecutor Evestus. If - for whatever reason - Vladimir does not make it to the courtroom in Ukraine, the Estonian prosecutors would unfreeze the investigation here. Estonian criminal code foresees a maximum punishment of up to a life in prison for terrorist crimes or participation in a terrorist grouping.