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Estonian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-10-08 09:15:46
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Estonia arrests former KGB officers

Two former Soviet security officials have been arrested crossing into Estonia, the second major incident between Russia and its Baltic neighbour in the past weeks. In early September an Estonian security agent was abducted at gunpoint and taken to Russia, where he is awaiting trial after being accused of spying. Last Sunday two Russians, reportedly identified as former KGB officers, were held by Estonian border guards when their boat allegedly crossed the border on the Narva River near Lake Peipsi. The men, Mihhail Suhoshin, 64, and Alexander Ladur, 54, are being held on charges of resisting arrest and illegally entering Estonia. The incidents point to heightened tensions between the two countries.

“The ex-KGB guys caught on the Narva River are ‘ex’ and may have been merely fishing,” said Kalev Stoicescu, a research fellow and Russia expert at the Tallinn based International Centre for Defence Studies. “But the Russians are testing all types of borders, on land, at sea and in the air space of many Nato and EU countries including Estonia. They do this to provoke, but also to test reactions both technically and politically.” Estonia’s eastern border, renowned for smuggling and spy games, was the scene of turn with the abduction of security official Eston Kohver on 5 September. Kohver, an officer of the Kaitsepolitsei or KaPo, Estonia’s counter intelligence agency, was held at gunpoint near the Luhamaa border checkpoint in remote south-eastern Estonia carrying a large amount of cash and a firearm.

There has been speculation that he was meeting a Russian informant when he was snatched by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence service. He is currently awaiting trial on espionage charges in Moscow, and faces decades in prison. “The Kohver abduction was possibly political and symbolic, as it happened the same day as the Nato summit in Wales and a day after Obama’s visit to Estonia,” Stoicescu said. “But there may be more prosaic reasons connected to the FSB’s own relations with the underworld and smuggling across the Estonian frontier.” A bone of contention in the Kohver case is what side of the border he was on when he was apprehended. Estonia says he was kidnapped from home soil, while Russia claims that he was caught across the border trying to corrupt a Russian official. The uncertainty surrounding the case is heightened because the exact location of the Estonian/Russian border is not clear. A final border treaty has yet to be ratified, and the de facto border runs much further to the west than the internationally recognised border agreed upon during Estonia’s short-lived inter-war independence in 1920. With Estonia one of the most sparsely populated countries in the EU, the border is largely rural and in many places densely thicketed and overgrown. The border is porous and lightly guarded. Lack of resources means improving border security is difficult. “There are constant attempts to smuggle illegal immigrants, alcohol, tobacco, and light arms into Estonia. Given the present state of affairs concerning the border control, I assume that only a portion of the smuggling is actually prevented or detected,” Stoicescu says.


Russia 'abducts' Estonian officer after Obama says US will defend Estonia


On Friday morning, less than 48 hours after President Obama delivered a speech in Estonia warning that Russian aggression against Estonia could trigger war with the US and NATO, Russian security forces have seized an officer with Estonia's state security bureau at gunpoint and taken him into Russia. Estonia says the officer was kidnapped (or "abducted") on Estonian soil and taken across by force. Moscow says the Estonian officer was on Russian soil and detained with a gun, 5,000 euros and "materials that have the character of an intelligence mission." Nearby Estonian police radios were reportedly jammed during the incident. The incident comes at a moment when Europe and the US are extremely concerned that Russia might attempt military action against Estonia as it has against Ukraine. Just on Wednesday, the United States publicly committed to Estonia's military defense, meaning that a Russian invasion of Estonia would trigger war between Russia and the US, a prospect so dangerous that the world managed to avoid it throughout even the Cold War.

"Unidentified persons coming from Russia took the freedom of an officer of Estonian Security police officer on the territory of Estonia," Estonia's state prosecutor's office announced, shortly before Russia claimed responsibility. "The officer was taken to Russia using physical force and at gunpoint." The statement continues: "The officer was fulfilling his duties in connection to preventing a cross-border crime in taking place. The use of smoke grenades and intense interference with operative radio connections preceded the incident." Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted almost immediately about the kidnapping, indicating that the government considers it a major incident. His government quickly summoned the Russian ambassador, and Estonia's interior minister said of the attack, "This kind of behavior is unacceptable."


US Armoured Vehicles to Arrive in Estonia

Heavy military equipment of the First Brigade of the First Cavalry Division of the US Army will arrive at Estonian town Tapa early Saturday morning, General Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces reported Friday. Stryker armoured vehicles and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, along with necessary command and support vehicles, will arrive in Tapa. The US Army's armored infantry company, which includes M-1 Abrams main battle tanks, infantry combat vehicles and armored vehicles, will take part in three-month training in Estonia.

Three Stryker 18 ton wheeled armoured transport vehicles, as well as associated support vehicles, were delivered to the Estonian town earlier in September.The Baltic states and Poland are to receive four squadrons with a total of 600 servicemen of the First Brigade of the First Cavalry Division of the US Army. They will replace the paratroopers of 173d Airborne Brigade currently at the site.

In April, Washington sent four paratrooper companies to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to support its NATO allies amid the crisis in Ukraine. More than 150 troops are stationed in Estonia without heavy armament, conducting military training for local troops.


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