PPA has footage of its officials accidentally crossing border into Russia

Vallo Koppel
Vallo Koppel Source: ERR

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) says it has video footage of Tuesday's incident on the Estonian-Russian border, which led to two of its contractual logistics workers, who had inadvertently crossed into Russian territory being detained for questioning.

The incident took place shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon after two personnel reported at the time as contract workers crossed the border inadvertently at Saatse, South Estonia, only to be apprehended and detained by Russian border guards.

PPA South Prefecture chief Vallo Koppel (pictured) told ERR that as of Wednesday morning, however, the Estonian side has not yet had any direct contact with the detained PPA officials. "They are still in Russia and in the hands of the Russian authorities. On Wednesday lunchtime, we will make further contact with the Russian side via means of communication which we hope will give us more detailed information on how this situation might be resolved," Koppel said.

This communication is taking place at border control level, Koppel added. "We have a regional control contact, as it were, who had briefly been in communication with the Russian side then, but has had no further communication as at present."

The Wednesday lunchtime communication is set to take place at regional control center level, with the aim of obtaining further information on what developments might happen.

"Generally, we resolve these situations in quite similar ways on both sides [of the border], that is, the circumstances are checked out. If someone has crossed the border, it must be made clear what their reason was for crossing it, was it intentional or in error, but the outcomes have been very different over the years, on both sides," he continued.

"There have been cases where the circumstances are so clear-cut that individuals have been handed over to the other side on the very same day, or the next day, or day after that," Koppel went on.

"Situations where an individual was left for a longer period of time due to criminal procedures, if they really had strayed over the border – well we can't remember any such cases from recent years," Koppel added.

There was no question that the two PPA officials had crossed the border into Russia erroneously, he went on.

"There is no intention here and we do not have any basis to carry out any procedure."

"We are simply dealing with some good Estonian men who were dispersing their duties in ensuring that the border was in order on the Estonian side as well and to avoid similar incidents being created. Their duties also include taking care of the border infrastructure. Our primary question is, of course, when we will get our colleagues back," Koppel said.

PPA has video footage of what happened.

"A little while after crossing on to the Russian side, they probably realized their mistake and wanted to return at the right place. We don't know exactly what the circumstances were, but most likely their ATV got stuck, hence why they couldn't proceed from there. It took a few minutes until the first patrol from the Russian side reached them. They had no radio contact with the Estonian side during that time," he added.

The patrol initiated a conversation with the Estonian pair, who were then taken further into Russian territory.

On Tuesday, Estonian border guards and representatives of the Russian side met at the Estonian-Russian border to go over what happened there. "We have been having official and professional communication with the Russian side," Koppel said.

In cases where PPA officials need consular assistance inside the Russian Federation, this goes via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Initial reports stated that three logistics contract workers were inspecting a section of the border ahead of planned maintenance.

Two of the workers, to men aged 61 and 57, mistakenly drove an ATV into Russian territory at that crossing point.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

Source: ERR Radio News, interviewer Madis Hindre.

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