The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) is closing a border guard station on Lake Peipsi, using the resources saved to bolster its maritime capabilities.
Alajõe lies on the north shore of Lake Peispi, and is close to two other border guard stations on the Narva River, which flows out of the lake and marks part of Estonia's eastern border with Russia. The border between Estonia and Russia cuts across the lake, whose east shore lies almost wholly in the Russian Federation. Alajõe is in the Alutaguse rural municipality.
Marge Kohtla, head of the PPA's maritime security group, said the closure was part of reorganization of onshore capabilities, particularly given both Vasknarva and Mustvee border guard bases are located nearby.
Kohtla added that response times not getting longer as a result of the closure was also a consideration.
The closure is not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic, but given the area sees an uptick in crowds during the summer months, continued restrictions on gatherings should nevertheless have an effect. At the same time, the region needs stepped-up PPA patrols, and has done for a long time, a local councilor said.
"Additional patrols, as they have been, are always welcome, but since we've been increasing our capability in the municipality year after year, we need to do it more of this right now," Alutaguse councilor Marek Kullamägi said.
Local residents' fears that the station's closure will lead to a deterioration in law and order would not materialize, Kullamägi added.
Head of the PPA's east region Tarvo Kruup noted the importance of making sure this was the case, i.e. no threat to public order in the region arose due to the closure of the border guard station.
"Naturally, we need to make adjustments to our tactics, but that is not a problem as we have been organizing the guarding of our border and also our work at Alajõe in such way that if necessary a unit from Punamäe will come and patrol at Alajoe," Kruup told ERR's online news in Estonian.
"So this is not something unusual. We've been working this way quite for some time already," Kruup added.
The closure of the Alajõe station also does not entail layoffs within the PPA, as existing jobs will be divided between the bases at Mustvee (on Lake Peipsi's northwestern shore-ed.) and Vasknarva, separated by 50 kilometers of waterway.
State real estate management company Riigikinnisvara (RKAS) said it has no plans as yet what to do with the border station and its environs.
The Alajõe base was brought under joint manaagement with the Punam'e and Vasknarva, on the Narva River, in 2014, with activities coordinated at Vasknarva, BNS reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte