MOSCOW - Moscow has hit back at Western officials who have protested over a Russian court’s recent sentencing of Eston Kohver, an Estonian counter intelligence agent.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the European Union and Tallinn have overreacted on the case which is “purely criminal”, in Moscow’s opinion.
Those protests are “the attempts to politicize the purely criminal case,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“We consider those loud declarations nothing but an attempt to openly politicize that criminal case,” the ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement published at the FM’s website.
Kohver, who was kidnapped from the Estonian border last year, has been sentenced to 15 years behind bars by a court in the city of Pskov on Wednesday.
Eston Kohver, a counter intelligence agent for KAPO, Estonia’s security service, was sentenced on charges of espionage, arms smuggling and illegal border crossing.
The court also fined Kohver for 100,000 rubles, equivalent of 1500 U.S. dollars.
Russia claims that Kohver, a father of four, detained in September 2014 by the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB, was armed and carrying large sum in cash while attempting to illegally enter Russia.
Estonia insists that Kohver was abducted to Russia by the FSB agents on the Estonian side of a border checkpoint.
Kohver also refused to plead guilty.
Both the European Union and Estonia on Wednesday called on Russia to immediately release Kohver and return him home.
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas condemned the verdict, calling it “a clear and grave violation of international law”.
“I strongly condemn the verdict on Eston Kohver; his illegal detention constitutes a grave violation of international law by RF (Russia),” he said on his Twitter account.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Russia to release Kohver, saying he had been “deprived of the right to a fair trial”, a claim Zakharova denied.
According to Zakharova, the legality of the court’s ruling cannot be questioned.
Moreover, she added, Russia has been surprised by such Western reaction, because no rights of the Estonian citizen were violated.
Kohver now has 10 days to appeal the court’s ruling.
The security services traditionally practice the swapping of detained foreign moles for their own operatives detained abroad, said a Russian senator Igor Morozov, formerly an officer in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.
“Still, the swap must be equal,” he told the RIAN news agency.
Having Kohver apprehended gives the Russian secret services more room for maneuvers, Morozov said.