Baltic states Latvia and Estonia on Thursday moved to terminate their legal assistance agreements with Russia, with officials from the two EU and NATO members giving Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as the reason.
The agreements between the former Soviet republics — both staunch Ukraine allies — and Russia came into effect in the 1990s and concern mutual assistance in common, family and criminal law cases.
Latvia’s parliament on Thursday voted to end the bilateral treaty, as lawmakers cited a lack of trust in Russia nearly two years into its invasion of Ukraine.
“This agreement was concluded to promote cooperation in the field of legal assistance. Like a number of other bilateral agreements, it is based on mutual trust and confidence,” lawmaker Rihards Kols told parliament.
“Russia has lost that trust and has shown that it cannot be relied upon. By denouncing this treaty, we are making it clear: there is no trust,” said the head of the parliament’s foreign relations committee.
Estonia’s government also agreed to terminate its legal agreement with Russia and forwarded the bill to parliament for a vote, Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said in a statement Thursday.
“One of the preconditions for the agreement is trust in the legal system of the other country and we have no trust in Russia,” Tsahkna said.
“For as long as Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine continues, we must keep up our efforts to isolate Russia on the international stage and maintain bilateral relations between Estonia and Russia at the absolute minimum,” he added.
“Our goal is to terminate the agreement at the earliest opportunity because it is our clear position that we do not cooperate with an aggressor.”
Before the agreements can expire, Russia must be given six months notice. Thereafter legal cooperation between the two Baltic states and Moscow will be based on international agreements.
Last year, Estonia’s then justice minister Kalle Laanet said the termination of the agreement would complicate paperwork for Russian citizens living in Estonia, but would simplify other matters like child support.