Museum app sends hikers perilously close to Russian border

Trilingual warning sign posted along the road that cuts through the 'Saatse Boot'..
Trilingual warning sign posted along the road that cuts through the 'Saatse Boot'.. Source: PPA

A mobile app rolled out by a Southeastern Estonian museum has one small but potentially serious flaw, in that using it on a nearby hiking trail could take users perilously close to or even over the Russian border, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Saatse Museum in Setomaa in the far southeastern corner of the country launched the app with the intention of visitors getting more easily acquainted with outdoor attractions in the region.

However, on being tested by local students, whose task was to traverse a marked nature trail using the tool, it became clear that since the trail ran alongside the border between Estonia and the Russian Federation extra precautions would be needed to ensure noone inadvertently crosses.

Much of Estonia's eastern border is not clearly marked or fenced off, though this project is ongoing.

Saatse is particularly well-known as the border describes an Estonian enclave, known as the "Saatse boot", a few kilometers in width and length, surrounded to the north, east and south by Russian territory (see map).

The "Saatse boot" as it looks on Google Maps - the latter incidentally should not be relied upon as failsafe when traveling close to the Estonian-Russian border. Source: Google Maps

"In cooperation with the border guard, we have marked the trail, so no one should enter Russia by accident, but in reality, Saatse's hiking trail runs along the border, as it were," said Merily Marienhagen, director or Setomaa Museums, which operates the Saatse facility.

Border official Erik Grens said that users should pay close attention to no-entry signs and warnings, displayed in three languages, including English, to be clear, and contact the border guard if in doubt.

"If people are planning to go on holiday near the border and check out the sights, they should ensure they know where the border zone is. You can always approach the local border post if you have any questions, and the border guards will help you," Grens said.

The issue is not peculiar to the Saatse Museum's app either; not all map apps on the internet give a thoroughly accurate overview of the border's location, meaning these – including Google Maps – should not be blindly relied upon as they would not be likely to provide much of an alibi in the case of a border violation.

Following signs and road signs, as well as approaching the border guards as noted, are a better bet, Grens said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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