Residents of Estonia decided that the suspension of Sputnik is censorship. These were viewers who watched a discussion program on the Estonian TV channel ETV+ on sanctions against the agency. Political and economic sanctions against journalists are censorship.
Tallinn justified its actions [towards Russia Today and Sputnik Estonia] by fulfilling the sanctions that the EU imposed in March 2014 against some Russian individuals and legal entities, including Dmitry Kiselev, general director of the MIA Russia Today. However, the agency (RT) is not affected by these measures.
The steps taken by Estonia are based on the Article 2 of the Council Regulation (EU) No 269/2014 on the territorial integrity of Ukraine that foresees freezing the assets of Dmitry Kiselyov, the Director-General of Rossija Segodnya. According to the articles of association of the company, the Director General has the right to decide upon opening bank accounts and carry out invoicing. This corresponds to the condition "having the right to use all or part of the assets of a legal person or entity" in the EU Best Practices for the effective implementation of restrictive measures.
Furthermore, claims that the Estonian laws only forsees asset freezing for people on an EU personal sanctions list is incorrect. "This means that if Rossiya Segodnya, which is controlled by Dmitry Kiselyov, against whom sanctions have been imposed, has assets in Estonia, they must be frozen and access must not be given to funds or economic resources, that is provide services that would enable Rossiya Segodnya to do business. When it comes to Estonia, this prohibition applies to people operating in the territory of Estonia," head of anti-money laundering authority the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Madis Reimand said.
In 2015, Barclays bank closed the account used by the agency in the UK. In 2016, Latvia's domain registry shut the website of Sputnik Latvia after receiving a letter of concern from the Latvian Foreign Ministry, which drew attention to Sputnik's coverage of Ukraine and routine denial of the embattled nation's territorial integrity. In July 2019, Latvian authorities blocked access to the online portal baltnews.lv, owned by Rossiya Segodnya, because of the EU sanctions. In mid-2019, a court in Vilnius ruled on blocking Sputnik Lithuania over copyright issues.
Estonia is on the 11th place of Reporters without Borders Press freedom index. Estonia has not blocked Sputnik Estonia's website, it is accessible and operational. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu has emphasized that Estonia has not taken any measures against the portal's media content: "They are financial sanctions aimed at economic activity. I believe it to be justified. We have notified the European Commission's Legal Service. European agencies have said in the Commission that steps taken by Estonia in exercising sanctions policy are warranted."
Sputnik was created by a Presidential decree with the aim to “report on the state policy of Russia abroad”. Numerous reports have described how top managers from all the large government-controlled outlets and some influential private media attend the weekly meetings where "media managers receive guidelines that “help” them not to overstep the Kremlin’s so-called “double white lines”".
The EU vs Disinfo team has found 49 different Sputnik websites from all over the world and 31 of them are represented in the Disinformation cases database. Sputnik Estonia is represented in that database both in Estonian and in Russian languages.