Vladimir Linderman sits in a bar in Helsinki on Tuesday afternoon talking about his travel problems.
He was supposed to have been with his family in the Latvian capital Riga two days earlier, but Estonian border officials had different ideas.
Linderman, a member of Latvia’s Russian minority, is a key opposition figure in both Russia and Latvia. He is the leader of Latvia’s National Bolshevik group, and served for a long time as the group’s vice-chairman in Russia as well.
About a week ago Linderman travelled to Finland to meet with friends, and with MEP Heidi Hautala (Green). On Sunday he left for home, taking a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, hoping to catch a bus there and moving on to Riga.
However, he was stopped at the harbour by Estonian police. “They detained me and said that I was not welcome in Estonia. Soon after that they sent me back to Finland on the ferry”, Linderman says.
It is the second time that Linderman was sent back to Finland from Estonia. A similar situation occurred in October last year.
“I am completely ignorant of the reasons why I am not allowed into Estonia”, Linderman says. He also claims that he is not the only activist who is on an Estonian “blacklist”.
Estonian police say that criminal charges raised against Linderman are the reason for denying him entry.
In 2002 the opposition activist was charged with crimes including illegal possession of explosives, and conspiracy to murder the Latvian president.
At the time Linderman, who uses an aliens’ passport when travelling, was in Russia, where he applied for asylum. Asylum was denied, and he was expelled.
The court case itself has not been completed. He has been found innocent and guilty by courts of various levels of possession of explosives. The other charges were dropped much earlier.
“The whole case is completely fabricated. I know that it was dreamed up together by the security services of Latvia and Russia”, Linderman claims.
Linderman says that the security services consider him and the National Bolshevik Party, which has been banned in Russia, as an enemy of some kind. “I was [at the time that the charges were raised] a key representative of the opposition, and I promoted the rights of the [Russian] minority. At the same time our political group in Russia had risen up very strongly against the administration of Vladimir Putin.”
He feels that the European Union has failed in helping the big Russian minorities in the Baltic countries. Latvia’s National Bolsheviks are currently trying to have their group registered as a party. One of its aims is promoting the interests of the minority.
“But that would be just one of many tasks. I would call the new party an international party of the poor, whose political agenda and membership would be much more varied than with the National Bolsheviks.”
Linderman’s travel ban to Estonia is expected to last until 2012.
As it is still in force, Vladimir Linderman had to get back to Latvia by plane.