U.S urges Russia to release captured Estonian intelligence officer

  • 2014-09-10
  • From wire reports, TALLINN

Estonian intelligence officer Eston Kohver (right) with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (photo: LETA)

The U.S. government has urged Russia to release an imprisoned Estonian intelligence official captured in controversial circumstances last week.

It follows after Estonia claims one of it's intelligence agents Eston Kohver, 44 was abducted by members of Russia's secret service FSB in the Estonian border.

Tallinn says Kohver, who is now being held in a Moscow jail, was investigating a case of cross border crime when the incident happened.

Russia, however, say Kohver was carrying out espionage activities against Russia. A mission brief, a handgun and 5,000 euros of cash was discovered on Kohver. The Estonian could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Efforts to bring Estonian and Russian border representative have proved fruitless after a meeting was canceled today.m

U.S.. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf urged Russia to release Kohver immediately whilst it said it was investigating the matter.

"We have seen reports that an Estonia's internal security staff member was detained in Estonia, on 5 September, near the Russian border. According to some witnesses he was taken while fulfilling duties and taken to Russia. The details regarding who detained the Estonian government official are yet unclear. Estonians are in contact with Russia on this topic," U.S.. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told public broadcasting.

"We are monitoring this issue and its development. We call on Russia to immediately arrange for this official's safe and immediate return to Estonia. I do not have more analysis on why this incident took place. We are collecting more data," she added.

Meeting canceled

A meeting between Estonian and Russian border representatives meant to take place today Wednesday at the Luhamaa border checkpoint was canceled, Postimees Online reports.

The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board had convened the meeting today to be able to get the confirmation of the Russian Border Guard to the joint survey protocol that was signed on September 5 by assistants of Estonian and Russian border representatives. A similar four-hour meeting on Monday ended without results.

The Russian Border Guard announced that the joint investigation of the circumstances of the September 5 border incident should be held at a later date when additional circumstances are known. Estonian Police and Border Guard Board announces its reply that the border violation circumstances are written down in the September 5 joint observation protocol, Estonia has presented all evidence about the border violation and is awaiting confirmation of the protocol that was signed by the assistant of the Russian border representative.

South Estonian Prefect Tarmo Kohv said that it is not clear how solving the case would proceed. "The intergovernmental agreement prescribes that if the border representatives are not in agreement, then it (solving the border case issue - ed.) is taken to the foreign ministerial level," added Kohv.

On Wednesday, Estonian and Russian border representatives should meet again to finalize the protocol on the border violation that occurred on Friday, during which KaPo official Eston Kohver was abducted from the Estonian territory.

The two states' border representatives first met on Monday. During the four-hour meeting in Luhamaa, no agreement was reached and the border violation protocol was not signed. When the document was compiled on Friday, Russian border guards most likely did not yet know about the Russian special service FSB border operation.

On Tuesday, Estonia's Moscow Embassy consular department head Signe Matteus met with Kohver in prison. In the future, Kohver can contact the consul by phone but a separate permit has to be applied for each meeting.