The Corner

A Kidnapping in Võru County?


Estonia’s foreign ministry has summoned the Russian ambassador over what it calls the abduction of an Estonian security official by “unidentified individuals from Russia” on the border.  A ministry statement said the incident had taken place inside Estonia on Friday, near Luhamaa border checkpoint. The missing Estonian official works for the Estonian Internal Security Service.  The foreign ministry called it “a very disturbing incident”. It comes amid heightened tension with Russia.

Estonian Public Broadcasting had more color:

An official from the Internal Security Service (ISS), Estonia’s national agency for counterintelligence and high-profile corruption investigations, was abducted at gunpoint at Luhamaa border checkpoint this morning where he was discharging service duties, and taken to Russia. There is no indication that the abduction is more than an isolated criminal incident, but on the backdrop of international tensions, the situation is being treated seriously. The incident occurred at about 9:00 on the Estonian side of the border and was preceded by jamming of communications and use of a smoke grenade, the agency said; the interference was said to originate from the Russia side. The ISS said the official was in the process of interdiction of a cross-border crime.

Initially the Estonians seemed willing to treat this as a purely criminal matter.

The BBC again:

…The Estonian daily Postimees said the missing official in the security police (Kapo) was involved in tackling cross-border crime. The kidnappers jammed Estonian radio communications and used a smoke grenade during the incident, reports say. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted “let’s not jump to conclusions, folks. Estonia extremely good at stopping organised crime & smuggling. Among best controlled borders in EU”.

But Postimees also noted the suspicions of former police chief and interior minister Ain Seppik (of the center-right Reform Party):

Mr Seppik told Postimees the incident cannot be an accident; rather, this serves to demonstrate that Russian provocations have started. According to him, it was to be expected that the visit by US President Barack Obama will not go easy for Estonia.

Kidnapping a security police officer and hauling him into Russia at gunpoint, says Mr Seppik, is an act very brutal and demonstrative. “This is no accident nor a common crime, let them not even come up with a version like that,” said Mr Seppik, adding that in his opinion this is a targeted attack which needs to be taken very seriously. “In the light of the recent events, don’t believe in coincidences.”

And now there is this from the Russian side (ITAR-TASS):

MOSCOW, September 05. /ITAR-TASS/. An officer of the Estonian security police was detained on Friday on the territory of Russia’s north-western Pskov region while he was conducting an undercover operation, the public relations center of the Federal Security Service told ITAR-TASS.

“A citizen of Estonia, Eston Kohver, who is an officer of the Estonian security police bureau, was detained on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the press center said. “He had a Taurus handgun, an amount of €5,000 in cash, equipment for covert audio recording, and materials indicative of an intelligence mission.”

Note the difference. The Estonians are saying that their man was dragged across the border, whereas the Russians are claiming that Mr. Kohver was detained on their territory.

At this stage, I’d be inclined to believe the Estonians, for the reasons given by Ain Seppik.

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