The Russian Federation late on Thursday morning made good on a pledge to close its border crossing at Ivangorod/Jaanilinn, across the Narva River from Estonian territory, meaning for the foreseeable future the border can only be crossed on foot, in either direction.
Russia closed the border at midnight Moscow time (1.00 a.m. in Estonia) on February 1, while Estonia had already responded in kind by closing the border at 11 p.m. local time, putting in place concrete bollards and razor wire (see gallery above) on the Estonian side of the road bridge which spans the river.
The official reason given by Russian authorities for the closure is due to renovation on its side of the border, in Ivangorod – known in Estonian as Jaanilinn, and this work is set to last at least until the end of next year.
The closure will necessarily make cross-border movement of people and goods even harder than it had already been.
Of the roughly 4,000 people estimated to cross the border per day in each direction, around 80 percent are pedestrians in any case. To what extent those crossing the border by road vehicle up until now will make the switch to moving on foot is hard to foresee, but the necessary preparations are being made for a surge in the number of pedestrians.
Marek Liiva, head of the Narva border crossing, told AK that: "At the present moment, the customs zone is being widened within the pedestrian terminal, while customs checking work conditions are being improved. If the proportion of pedestrians does turn out to rise, customs will then be more efficient and better able to perform their tasks."
A spokesperson for Lux Express, a major bus carrier, said crossing the border via that means will now involve the bus stopping at the frontier zone, at which point passengers will continue on foot to go through border control and carrying their baggage with them.
A second bus will then continue the journey to their destination.
Hauliers still engaged in transporting items into the Russian Federation must cross at the border checkpoints at Luhamaa and Koidula, in southeastern Estonia.
This makes the journey to the St. Petersburg area, the destination for most trucks, around 600 kilometers longer and thus both costlier and more time consuming.
At least one haulier, AS Transservis-N, is making layoffs – totaling four people.
AS Transservis-N is run by the City of Narva itself. While the latter says it has no intention of winding up the company as a result of the border closure, a spokesperson said that: "Transservis-N earned most of its income from transit, but this also incurred costs. This means that those costs have disappeared along with the revenues, and Transservis-N can now start working in other areas."
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Jüri Nikolajev.