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Kohver was warned, says former Russian politician

Eston Kohver, the kidnapped Estonian security service operative, was warned that his activity in fighting smugglers on the Estonian-Russian border has irritated local powers, Andrey Kuzhkin, a former administrative head of Tomsk Oblast in Russia, said, adding that politicians are deeply involved in crime in the Pskov Oblast.

He told Postimees the rule of thumb in Russia is that if a company's turnover is 10 million rubles (150,000 euros at current rates), protection is offered by local criminals, if turnover is 100 million, then by the local politicians, but if turnover exceeds 1 billion rubles (15 million euros), then politicians in Moscow are involved. Kohver may have crossed the line in investigating cross-border crime in Pskov, one of Russia's poorest, but most crime-affected regions.

Pskov is a battleground for criminal gangs and Kohver even met local anti-corruption heads officially, at a time when one such official saw his vehicle blown up. Russian authorities may have been afraid that Kohver would expose names of high-level politicians, and Kuzhkin's sources say Kohver was warned in May, 2014, to back off.

Kohver was abducted by Russian authorities from Estonian soil on the Russian-Estonian border in September 2014, when meeting a Russian contact. He is currently in Pskov under trial facing charges of espionage, carrying illegal weapons and money, and illegal border crossing. Estonia has maintained his innocence and the EU, UN, the United States, as well as other nations, have called on Russia to release Kohver.

Estonian Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand recently said Kohver is likely to be found guilty in any case, as the proceedings are a sham and illegal. According to his Russian-state-appointed lawyer, Kohver is likely to face a 10-year prison sentence.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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