Southeastern border infrastructure construction work starts

Tri-border (Estonia/Latvia/Russia) point in southeastern Estonia during the winter.
Tri-border (Estonia/Latvia/Russia) point in southeastern Estonia during the winter. Source: Mirjam Nutov/ERR

Construction of the first stage of the southeastern Estonia border infrastructure began Monday in Võru County. Baltic News Service reports. The 23.5-kilometer border stretch runs from the tri-border (Estonia/Latvia/the Russian Federation) meeting point to the Estonian-Russian border checkpoint at Luhamaa.

The government allocated €48 million for border construction work through to 2022, last fall; the first stretch of infrastructure will take longer than that to complete, according to BNS.

The work include the construction of patrol roads and access points, as well as fences and surveillance equipment installation.

"Of our 136-kilometer land border, only one-tenth is covered by surveillance devices, with the lion's share of border surveillance being done by foot patrols," said Egert Belitsev, head of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) Integrated Border Management Bureau, according to BNS.

The sheer length of the border makes this on-foot surveillance impossible for every meter of the border, hence why modern technical support is needed, he added.

Belitsev added that the PPA is set to announce public procurement for the next border section construction in the near future, and if everything goes ahead to schedule, this will begin next year.

Contractors for the first stage are AS Merko Ehitus Eesti and AS GRK Infra, BNS reports, quoting the interior ministry.

Tarvi Kliimask, GRK Infra manager, told BNS that the project's preparation and design phases have been carried out in accordance with the schedule. 

The construction of infrastructure on this first, 23.5-kilometer section, will take up to three years, BNS reports.

Dividing the border construction into stages has been done in the interests of both balance in procurement opportunities and to keep things on schedule, according to BNS.

Unlike the northeastern and eastern border, which is clearly delineated by the Narva River and Lake Peipus respectively, the southeastern border has long been much vaguer, with a very real risk of inadvertently crossing the border into Russian territory and Seto communities in the region separated between the EU/Schengen Zone in Estonia, and the Russian Federation, dating back to the Estonian restoration of independence in 1991.

The Estonian/Latvian border is marked by posts; checkpoints are still in existence but generally not used since both nations are in the Schengen Area; these were resurrected during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, however.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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