Ethnic Russian teenagers from Estonia are being militarized at youth camps organized in conjunction with Russian federal agencies, according to Estonian public broadcaster ERR.
An investigative program aired 19 November on ERR-owned ETV reported that the camps – officially held to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II – are run in conjunction with Russia’s defense ministry, other Kremlin agencies, and Russian media outlets. The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, also has close links to camp organizers, according to ERR.
Ten youngsters from Estonia attended a camp in Kyrgyzstan this summer accompanied by an Estonian high school teacher.
The report, broadcast on the Pealtnagija program, showed footage of the military-style games that take place at the camps, but Estonian officials are more concerned by ideological lectures included on the camps’ agenda. Andres Kahar of the Estonian Internal Security Service described the camps as “an active attempt to root aggressive military thinking.”
A picture taken from Facebook showed three young people posing with Kalashnikovs at this year’s camp, accompanied by a “joking” comment from one of them that he was “killing moronic fascists” in Ukraine, ERR reports.
Russian nationalism is reportedly an important component of the camps. At a similar gathering Latvian youngsters pledged to support the spread of the Russian language and culture and to defend Russian politics, Deutsche Welle reported in June 2013.
Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told Deutsche Welle the camps are an example of Russia using soft power and brainwashing “to strengthen its control in the Baltic region.”
This article was originally posted on Transitions Online.