TALLINN – Donations are being raised in Russia to pay for lawyer's fees for the resident of Pechory, Russia, who attempted to take drones across the Estonian-Russian border to eventually hand them to the Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, Tartu Postimees reported.
The 43-year-old man, Vladimir Silov, who has dual Russian and Estonian citizenship, is currently in pretrial detention in Tallinn Prison.
The Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) arrested Silov on May 28 as he was about to cross the Estonian-Russian border with three drones bought in Estonia, which he planned to donate to Russian airborne forces from a unit based in Pskov near the Estonian border that are currently fighting in Ukraine.
"Friends, I'm driving!!! Wish me luck," Silov, who works as a truck driver and often performs as a singer, posted on the social networking site VKontakte at 10:56 a.m. on May 28. The post also features a picture of three boxes of the the DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo drone set up on the car's dashboard.
Silov acquired the drones in mid-May. In a post made on May 15, he announced that the fundraiser for the purchase of equipment had ended. He spent a total of 1,797 euros to buy three drones, of which about 1,500 euros was collected in the fundraiser.
"When I have the drones and when I hand them over, there will be more photos," Silov said. "Thank you all for your support! Our boys will definitely say thank you!"
In the same post, he added that all he needs to do now is to go and get the drones. He admitted that the operation was not entirely risk-free.
"I hope I can do it, because our customs authorities are not always predictable, but I hope for the best," he said.
The news of Silov's arrest was published by the ISS on May 31. It was said he faces up to five years in prison for an attempt to help the Russian military.
To pay for Silov's legal expenses, his friend Oksana started a fundraiser in Russia, and judging by social media posts, there are dozens of donors. Silov's postal address in Tallinn Prison was also published on social media.
"Today we were allowed to call Vova for the first time, since we had a total communication ban since May 28," Oksana wrote in a post on July 5. "I told him how much you all help me, support him and worry about him. I am so grateful! Unfortunately he can make a call only once a week."
In remarks published on May 31, after a court had approved custody for Silov, prosecutor at the Office of the Prosecutor General of Estonia Melinda Ulend said that joining, participating in or supporting an act of aggression by a foreign country is punishable in Estonia by up to five years' imprisonment. The actions deemed as supporting the aggression include the acquisition of military equipment, including drones, for units of the Russian army as well as financing the procurement of equipment.
"Money or other material aid provided for the purpose of supporting Russia's aggression in Ukraine likewise constitute unlawful support," Harrys Puusepp, bureau chief at the ISS, added.