* Two journalists from the Russian English language TV channel Russia Today were denied Estonian visas one day before their planned trip to Tallinn. The reporters, according to an emailed press release distributed by the channel, were "investigating problems related to neo-Nazis activism in the former Baltic States."
The two men who were denied entry to Estonia, according to the release, were director Artem Somov and correspondent Alexander Luchaninov. The Estonian embassy did not provide any reasons for the denial, Russia Today said. A third member of the crew, a camera operator, was granted a visa.
Alexander Luchaninov told The Moscow News that the decision came as a complete surprise for him as he had visited many European countries, including Estonia, and never had had any problems with the law.
Luchaninov added that this was the first time in Russia Today's two years of reporting that any its journalists were denied a visa.
Speaking about his previous visit to Estonia in early June of this year, Luchaninov said that he had covered touchy issues, like the relocation of a Soviet monument to soldiers who died in World War II, but always presented his stories from both sides. Estonian authorities were duly represented in his reports.
This time around, the channel planned to make a short documentary devoted to education reform and Estonia's planned entry into the EU. He said he planned interviews with opposition politicians, but as always they were planned to be balanced with viewpoints from Estonian officials.
The documentary had been in preparation for at least three weeks, and the visa denial canceled the project, the journalist said.
The Estonian embassy was not available for comment at press time.
Russian-Estonian relations remain strained, mainly over conditions for the Russian-speaking population of the Baltic republic.
This year, however, relations between the two countries worsened further when Estonian authorities ordered the relocation of a monument to fallen Soviet soldiers from the square in the center of the Estonian capital to a cemetery outside of the city. Russian Foreign Ministry called the move a blasphemy and a mockery to the memory of the fallen troops.
The relocation of the monument, together with the exhumation of the Soviet soldiers' remains, which took place in April, street protests erupted in Tallinn and riots broke out, as well as protests in Russia.
Estonian police broke up the crowd and arrested about 200 people. On October 24, an Estonian court sentenced one of the rioters to a one-year suspended jail term and a fine.
By Kirill Bessonov