PPA to build drone monitoring station on Narva's former Soviet tank site

Road barriers to prevent cars from entering the Soviet tank site.
Road barriers to prevent cars from entering the Soviet tank site. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

A new drone surveillance station will be built on the former site of the Soviet T-34 tank monument which stood on the outskirts of Narva, on the Russian border, and was removed in 2022.

The facility is being built by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) which is expanding surveillance of the Estonian-Russian border.

The transfer of the plot to the PPA ended last week and the City of Narva received almost €2,000 for the land. The drone station will be finished by the end of 2025.

The authority on Tuesday blocked vehicle access to the site, which is located on the road to Narva-Jõesuu which runs parallel to the Narva River.

"Currently, a no-parking and no-stopping zone has been installed there. In the future, when the mast is erected, it will probably be enclosed by a fence and no one will be allowed to go there. As a site of national security, it will be subject to increased scrutiny," explained Urmas Elmi, head of the Eastern Prefecture's Border Guard Office.

Drone (photo is illustrative). Source: Rene Suurkaev / ERR

Flowers, which are still laid by residents at the site of the tank, will be removed. Visitors will be banned from the site when the construction of the radar station begins.

"With regard to the flowers that are there now, we have made contact with these people, we are negotiating with them whether they will take them away or what compromise we will reach with them. But I think we will reach a compromise with them," said Elmi.

The PPA plans to establish 15 additional radars stations in Ida-Viru County to increase border surveillance. At present, around 70 percent of the Narva River border is covered by such equipment. 

While the number of illegal border crossings has remained steady over the years, in 2022 drone-related border offenses in the border area increased significantly, the PPA said.

The former tank site provides good visibility and is large enough to enable long-distance monitoring of the land border and parts of Narva Bay and the sea, officials said last year.

The Narva T-34 in its former location, shortly before being removed. An identical model is now to be installed in Ivangorod. Source: Tatjana Gassova/ERR

The T-34 tank monument was removed from the site last summer and taken to the Estonian War Museum in Viimsi.

It was installed by the USSR to remember, what it described as, the liberation of Narva from Nazi Germany during World War Two and those who died fighting for it.

But to Estonians, it marked the start of an almost 50-year occupation that spanned 1944-1991.

The monument was removed after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 which returned the subject of de-communization of the public space to the headlines.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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