Having hiked the Estonia-Russia boundary line, yesterday, with interior minister Hanno Pevkur, Police and Border Guard Board chief Elmar Vaher and other police and border guard officials, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas announced the erecting and completion of border starts this very instant.
In his tall green rubber boots and a stylish vest, emerging from Võru County’s Piusa cordon, Taavi Rõivas did project the image of an English nobleman taking a stroll to survey his domain. Particularly, the Prime Minister vas interested in the borders thereof.
One wonders: would the former PM have plunged into the brush of South-East Estonia’s borderlands to see how the line is doing, proceeding to hold a press conference there and then?
I asked Mr Rõivas how close to the line he dared go and whether there perhaps lurked the danger of getting conjured into Russia just like Eston Kohver the security police officer?
«Oi, oi, oi,» sounded Mr Rõivas, a bit admonishingly. «People of Estonia may feel secure on Estonian soil and likewise the Prime Minister. We went close enough to the boundary line as to get full picture of the situation, and far enough to be sure – every step was taken on the Estonian side. About anybody keeping an eye on... This I know, for sure, that Estonian border guard had a very good overview of our every step, almost. Afterwards, we got a report of our movements both from the places with cameras, and from places where every eye doesn’t spot a camera.»
State to chop
Anyway, from the posture of Mr Rõivas, interior minister Hanno Pevkur, and Police and Border Guard Board Southern prefect Tarmo Kohv now exuded the confidence which the public felt little of right after Mr Kohver was kidnapped. Indeed, the government has decided to build the border, and not out of some future budget, but straight away.
«After a year, latest, the Piusa cordon behind us will be a modern border-guard cordon – we will invest €5.3m here,» declared Mr Rõivas. «However, our main goal today is to build and complete the entire Estonian border using very state-of-the-art technology so as to have full technical monitoring capacity, that we would have the borderline laid out in its full length, and properly marked. The work has commenced and I believe it won’t be long till we see Estonia’s eastern border as one of the most modern there is,» said the prime minister.
He went on to say that extra €900,000 were written into next year’s budget sent to Riigikogu, first and foremost to acquire technical monitoring devices for the Eastern border. This, however, is only just the beginning, so spending will have to go on regarding the border in years to come.
Hopefully, said Mr Rõivas, at tomorrow’s [today’s – edit] government meeting they will manage to issue orders to State Forest Management Centre (RMK) to chop down brush and all from the border line to at least for ten metres. There are some 83 kilometres in need of the axe.
Interior minister Mr Pevkur said the border cannot be equipped with posts or a fence till the boundary line is cleaned out. The job will, at initial estimate, cost a minimum of €5m; on the other hand, RMK will earn a part of the money by selling the timber felled.
So what will the border be looking like, once it’s fully built?
«Internationally, border boundary constructions are rather different,» said Mr Pevkur. «Simply put, it means a ten metre wide strip which is clear full length of the border. It’s another issue what kinds of devices we will be using to guard the border – experts will decide if, in times to come, we will be using a fence in some places or, rather, some varying technical solutions. Definitely, we have no need today to declare that we will have a two metre fence along the total border – at places, we may have a strip of sand, at places a good camera, or at places have a 24/7 patrol.»
According to Mr Rõivas, there are lots of differing technical solutions which are much more effective than a fence no matter how high. «The goal is clear – the entire Eastern border needs to be completed, and equipped with the most contemporary technology,» he said.
Makarov to Walther
According to Mr Pevkur, it would actually be easier to mark the border in cooperation with Russia, after the border treaty gets ratified.
«But even if the border treaty finally gets ratified, the changes to border line will be very minimal,» said interior minister. «This border line will be the same and there are just some very short sections of the border which will, after the treaty gets ratified, be given to Russia or obtained by Estonia. Even it, at the bilateral and more precise marking, there will be shifts of a couple of metres, that will in no wise alter the area cleaned up in the Estonian side.»
Mr Pevkur added that already in the spring €200,000 were allocated to improve mobility of border guards in swampy areas, followed by another near-million euros for new weapons, bullet proof vests, and improvements of other protection equipment. Narva border point construction is already underway, and will cost €9m.
Yesterday, the interior minister handed to Piusa cordon head Valmar Hinno the first Walther pistol – as all other border guards soon stand to receive. Alas, till this day the guys guard the border with old Makarov pistols on their hips – a joke in serious conflict. Mr Pevkur assured us the border guards do have the option of automatic weapons, if needed.