TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonia’s prime minister has been placed on a wanted list in Russia over her efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II monuments in the Baltic nation, officials said Tuesday as increases tensions between Russia and the West amid the war in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ name appeared on the Russian Interior Ministry’s list of people wanted on unspecified criminal charges, although it was unclear when she was added, according to Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet. The list includes dozens of officials and lawmakers from other Baltic nations.

The move was related to his efforts to remove World War II monuments, other Russian officials said. There was no immediate reaction from the Estonian authorities.

NATO members Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania have torn down monuments that are widely seen as an unwanted legacy of the Soviet occupation of those countries.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, numerous monuments to Red Army soldiers have also been torn down in Poland and the Czech Republic, a belated purge of what many see as symbols of past oppression.

Moscow has denounced those measures as a desecration of the memory of Soviet soldiers who fell while fighting Nazi Germany.

The inclusion of Kallas, who has fiercely advocated for greater military assistance to Ukraine and stronger sanctions against Russia, appears to reflect the Kremlin’s effort to raise the stakes in the face of NATO pressure on war.

It is the first time that the Russian Interior Ministry has included a foreign leader on a wanted list. Estonian Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop and Lithuanian Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys are also on the list, which is accessible to the public, along with dozens of officials and legislators from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed that Kallas and Peterkop were on the list for their involvement in the removal of monuments.

When asked about the move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was a response to the action by Kallas and others who “have taken hostile measures towards historical memory and towards our country.”

Russia has laws that criminalize the “rehabilitation of Nazism” and that include punishment for the desecration of war memorials. Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s main criminal investigation agency, has a department dealing with alleged “falsification of history” and the “rehabilitation of Nazism,” which has intensified its action since the start of the war. , according to Mediazona, which broke the news. about Kallas being added to the wanted list.

Mediazona, which published an extensive study of the list, said it also includes dozens of Ukrainian officials and foreign nationals accused of fighting alongside the Ukrainian armed forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that ridding Ukraine of far-right neo-Nazi groups is a central goal of the war, but has offered no evidence to support his repeated claims that such groups have a decisive voice in the war. shaping Ukraine’s policies. .

Kallas’ inclusion could also mark an attempt by Moscow to counter last year’s arrest warrant against Putin issued by the International Criminal Court over the alleged deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. The president of the ICC, Piotr Hofmanski, also appears on the Interior Ministry list.

While it means little in practical terms, as contacts between Moscow and the West were frozen during the conflict, it comes at a time when European NATO members are increasingly concerned about how the US elections will affect the alliance.

Former US President Donald Trump has revived fears among NATO allies that he could allow Russia to expand its aggression in Europe if he returns to the White House.

“’Didn’t you pay? Are you a criminal?’” The Republican front-runner recently said he told an unnamed NATO member during his presidency. “’No, I wouldn’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You have to pay'”.

That statement contrasted sharply with US President Joe Biden’s promise to “defend every inch of NATO territory,” as the alliance pledges all members to do in the event of an attack.

Trump’s statement shocked many in Europe, prompting commitments from Poland, France and Germany to bolster Europe’s security and defense power.

By Sam