Although Estonia's eastern border is closed for tourism as a result of the pandemic, vehicles with Russian Federation license plates can still be seen on the roads in Estonia. The police think one of the reasons for this could be that the cars have not been registered in Estonia, therefore allowing the driver to speed through speed limit cameras with impunity because speeding tickets are not sent to Russia.
Aleksander Urb, head of the patrol service at Narva police station, said: "We have a number of people who own an Estonian license but use vehicles registered in the Russian Federation. That is allowed and legal."
Urb assumes that these could be people who had to travel to Russia for work or other reasons, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. That estimate is confirmed by drivers who have expressed their opinions on the web portal Auto24, stating that cars with Russian license plates tend to cross the border faster for some reason.
Additionally, cars with Russian license plates are immune to Estonian speed cameras.
Urb said: "I can't rule out that one of the reasons is that people don't want to pay speeding tickets. The tickets don't reach people with Russian license plates. No cooperation has been agreed to with the Russian Federation regarding that. I sincerely hope that this will change in the near future."
Martti Kangur, head of the registry department at the Road Administration Maanteeamet), said: "Since it's registered abroad, we don't know if it meets the requirements set in the EU. Technical requirements, for example. There's no tax on cars in Estonia, but the state will not receive some fees off the car. "
Kangur said a person from another country has to register their vehicle in Estonia if it is present in the country for more than a year. However, foreigners with residence permits have to register their vehicle within five days after it being put to use in Estonia.
The police interpret the law as saying that if a vehicle with Russian license plates visits Russia at least once a year, there is no requirement to change plates. There is no record kept of how many cars with Russian license plates are used in Estonia.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste