United States State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said Tuesday that the US is calling on Russia to arrange for the safe and immediate return of Estonian counterintelligence agent Eston Kohver.
The Estonian government says Kohver was kidnapped while performing official duties near the border in southeast Estonia on Friday morning. Russia claims that Kohver was caught in Russian territory. He is now being held in Moscow, awaiting formal charges.
"We are following this issue as it develops," Harf said. "We call on Russia to act expeditiously to make sure that the Estonian employee is returned safely and immediately to Estonia. I have no more information or analysis on why this took place. We are still gathering details."
Representatives from both Estonia and Russia met on Monday. The four-hour meeting in Luhamaa reached no agreement over the border incident. Signe Matteusel, the consular head of the Estonian embassy in Moscow, was able to meet with Kohver on Tuesday. In the future, Kohver can be contacted by telephone. A permit is required for each meeting.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told the daily Postimees that they have been in touch with allies about the Kohver case in the five days after the incident took place. Head of the foreign relations committee, Marko Mihkelson, said that Estonia had not yet pressured its allies to help address the issue.
ERR correspondent in Washington, D.C., Lauri Tankler, asked the State Department representative whether or not the US saw the abduction as part of a series of overall Russian provocations against the West, coming two days after US President Barack Obama visited Tallinn, or whether it is a completely isolated incident.
"We have seen these reports that one of Estonia's internal security staff was seized near the Russian border," Harf said. "According to some eyewitness accounts, he was then taken into Russia. The details are still unclear. The Estonians are in contact with the Russian government. We will monitor this issue and its development."