Two Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) contract workers were detained by Russia on Tuesday afternoon after they mistakenly crossed the border while preparing maintenance work. The men have not yet been released.
The incident took place near the Saatse border crossing in Setomaa in south Estonia while three logistics workers — who are contract workers not border guards — were inspecting a section of the border where maintenance is planned to be carried out, the PPA said in a statement.
Two men, aged 61 and 57, mistakenly drove an ATV into Russian territory at the crossing and were detained by Russian border guards just before 3 p.m.
"Today's incident was a human error. We are currently making every effort to get our staff back to Estonia as soon as possible," said Southern Prefect Vallo Koppel.
The workers mistakenly drove on the road on the Russian side of the border, just a few meters inside Russian territory, instead of the asphalt road on the Estonian side, the PPA said on Tuesday evening.
They were preparing for border maintenance in civilian clothes and without specialist equipment, the agency said.
The PPA employees did not put up resistance and the Russian border guards did not use force against them.
At 5 p.m. the PPA invited a representative from the Russian border guard to a meeting but an agreement on the Estonians' transfer was not reached.
President Alar Karis commented on the incident and emphasized this is human error. He said a properly marked border is important so local residents and PPA employees do not mistakenly cross it.
"What happened today is a human error, which can only be solved by an explanation from Estonia and the release of our officials. I hope that the two PPA logisticians who crossed the border at the Saatse border crossing point during border maintenance will quickly return home to their families and colleagues," the president wrote on social media.
Editor: Helen Wright