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Border maintenance workers arrested by Russian border guard, later returned

Estonia's eastern border, marked with a trilingual sign.
Estonia's eastern border, marked with a trilingual sign. Source: (Tauno Tõhk/Government Office)

Two men using a road on Russian territory to get from one Estonian village to another were arrested by Russian border guards on Thursday. Unaware that they had left Estonia, they stopped their vehicle, which according to current agreements between the two countries isn't allowed. They were subsequently arrested and taken in for identity checks, but allowed to return after paying a fine.

The Russian border guard informed the Estonian border guard station in Piusa at 1:20 p.m. on Thursday that they had arrested two men on Russian territory in the area of the Estonian municipality of Värska.

According to information by the Police and Border Guard (PPA), the 22 and 28-year-old men had been in the area doing maintenance work on the Estonian side. They were travelling on the road between Lutepää and Sesniki, two hamlets on the Estonian side of the border.

The road connecting the two hamlets traverses a small area of Russian territory called the Saatse Boot. Vehicles can use the road to avoid a longer detour on Estonian territory, but are not allowed to stop, a rule the two men apparently broke.

According to PPA, the two were using a map based on public information as they disregarded warning signs along the road. They reportedly pulled over to find out where exactly they were.

The two were picked up by a Russian border patrol in the area and taken to the nearest border guard base. The officials confirmed the location of the men's vehicle in the Saatse Boot, and that they are Estonian citizens and employees of a company doing maintenance work on the Estonian side of the border.

According to PPA, the two had been busy cleaning the area immediately next to the border line from undergrowth and trees. They were informed about the circumstances and special demands of working in the area, PPA's press office confirmed.

An exchange between the Russian and Estonian border authorities that immediately followed the event also confirmed the details of the situation. Each of the men had to pay a fine of 2,000 roubles (some €31), after which they were free to return to Estonian territory.

According to Arvi Suvi of PPA's Saatse station, the road through the Saatse Boot could not be taken on foot, and pulling over was forbidden as well. The Russian border guard strictly enforces the rule.

“Last year we added additional warning signs to avoid inadvertent violations and to increase the awareness of people moving through the area,” Suvi said, adding that they recommended that anyone moving through the area use a map of the Land Board, or contacted the border guard to know where exactly the border is.

Web-based maps and apps did not always provide sufficient information, Suvi stressed. Following only such an app, disregarding roadside signs, and not asking the border guard for help were the typical reasons for violations of the rules in place.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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