Luhamaa border crossing enlargement halted by Russian invasion of Ukraine

Luhamaa border checkpoint in Southeastern Estonia.
Luhamaa border checkpoint in Southeastern Estonia. Source: ERR

Reconstruction work at the Luhamaa border crossing in southeastern Estonia has been put on hold, due to funds allocated to it being re-routed to the Narva crossing, in the northeast of the country, in the aftermath of Russia's renewed invasion of Ukraine, starting February.

Viljar Kärk, border guard and migration policy departmental adviser at the Ministry of the Interior, said: "The Luhamaa checkpoint project is still in place, and as of spring of this year, had reach the point where a construction tender was announced."

"However, due to the war starting in February, this was not carried out, while this all depends on how the neighboring country acts," Kärk continued.

Related effects of the war including sanctions put in place on Russia played their part also.

"The reason why this was done is, obviously, related to the war in Ukraine. We know that various restrictions have been imposed on both the transport of goods and the entry of Russian citizens into Estonia and the EU, and in the light of all this, it was not considered sensible to continue to expand the Luhamaa border crossing,"Kärk added.

The Setomaa Municipality still has to address issues relating to transit traffic passing through southeastern Estonian border checkpoints – unlike much of the eastern border, which follows watercourses, the border in the southeast is largely a land frontier.

Should the number of vehicles passing through the Luhamaa checkpoint increase even more, local roads will no longer be able to cope, meaning additional investments would be needed, Setomaa's mayor, Raul Kudre (SDE) says.

"In fact, they are looking for the quickest place to cross, while these small roads and major inclines are a disturbing factor in any case," Kudre added.

Over the past month, there have been five accidents involving trucks engaged in transit journeys, at precisely such points, on the undulations found on roads in southeastern Estonia. According to Kudre, this issue has also been discussed with the Transport Administration (Transpordiamet).

The number of road vehicles of all kinds has risen on year, also, ERR reports.

More than 113,000 vehicles have entered Estonia through the largest southeastern border crossing this year, while over 73,000 vehicles have left Estonia for Russia via the same route.

The border crossing at Luhamaa would have had greater capacity to meet these volumes had the reconstruction pressed on.

The southeastern border infrastructure as a whole has also been seeing work over the past few years, properly demarcated with fences and other installations.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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