Estonia to Build Fence on Russian Border

AP Photo/Liis Treimann
AP Photo/Liis Treimann

Estonia announced plans to build a fence on their border with Russia for extra protection. In the past year, the former Soviet republic often voiced fears they might be Russia’s next target after the Kremlin targeted Ukraine.

“The aim of the construction is to cover the land border with 100%, around-the-clock technical surveillance to create ideal conditions for border guarding and to ensure the security of Estonia and the Schengen area,” explained interior ministry spokesman Toomas Viks.

The Schengen Area includes 26 European countries that “agreed to allow free movement of their citizens within this area as a single country.” Viks said the fence would allow border agents “to investigate illegal border crossing, smuggling and human trafficking.”

Construction should start in 2018 and cost $80 million. It will span 70 miles and reach eight feet high. However, it will “only cover just a third of Estonia’s 294km (183 miles) border with Russia as much of it is covered by water.”

Tensions reached Cold War level in March 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The most vocal against Russia are the Baltic States. Only a few weeks after the invasion, the Russian ambassador to Latvia told a radio station the Kremlin is ready to grant citizenship to any Russian speakers in the country. Then, in front of the UN, a Russian diplomat expressed fear over alleged mistreatment of Russian speakers in Estonia. The Kremlin decided to reopen criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet Army in 1990-1991. Lithuania warned everyone on the list not to travel to non-EU and non-NATO countries. International law experts believe the lawsuit will not be upheld.

But relations between Estonia and Russia soured immensely these past few weeks. Estonia and the European Union lashed out at Moscow after a court sentenced Estonian border agent Eston Kohver to 15-years in prison. Moscow insisted the police arrested him “while spying on their side of the border.” Estonian officials claimed he was kidnapped.

“It has been a clear and grave violation of international law by the Russian Federation,” declared Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

Estonia recently banned all officials from speaking with Russian reporters. In June, Russian jets encroached Estonian airspace, which forced the “RAF Typhoon fighters, based in Estonia to identify and escort them away.” NATO troops were “practicing sea landings, air lifts and assaults” in the area. The Russian government claimed these drills were “reviving the ghost of the Cold War.” The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is currently conducting military exercises near the Estonian border with 2,000 troops. The Russian government also banned all “imports of canned fish from Latvia and Estonia” due to alleged “high levels of a toxic substance called benzopyrene.” However, the two countries believe the ban is political.


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