Estonian president thanks Kohver for remaining firm in prison

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Photo: Presidendi kantselei

Paying a visit to Eston Kohver, official of the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) sentenced to 15 years in jail in Russia in August and then exchanged for a former ISS staffer convicted of treason in Estonia, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves thanked Kohver for remaining firm, brave and loyal in captivity.

«The morning of September 26 this year, when it was conclusively confirmed that you are back in Estonia, was one of the happiest of my presidency,» Ilves said according to spokespeople. «I regret that it took so long and I thank you for maintaining firmness, bravery and loyalty while in captivity. Exactly in the same way I thank your wife Marlis, whose hope gave support to all of your family and next of kin.»

Ilves said getting the abducted ISS officer back home was the only goal for Estonia.

«To count points in this, of how much Estonia lost by this exchange and how much someone else won, is something I cannot understand. We got our man back – an Estonian state official and father of four is back with his family.»

The president said that when negotiations on the release of Eston Kohver came to the point of having to decide whether traitor Aleksei Dressen should be pardoned in Estonia, he never had any doubt.

«Pardoning doesn't mean forgiving and Dressen remains a traitor. This exchange brought Eston Kohver home, which is what matters the most,» he said.

«I believe that in the future everything can only go well with you,» Ilves told Kohver.

Eston Kohver, an employee of the ISS, was abducted from Estonian territory in September 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for alleged espionage by a Russian court in August. He was exchanged on Saturday for Aleksei Dressen, a former ISS employee sentenced by Estonian authorities in 2012 to 16 years for passing on sensitive information to Russia.

The Tallinn-based Harju county court in 2012 convicted Dressen of treason and disclosure of internal information and sentenced him to 16 years in jail. His wife Viktoria Dressen was found guilty of treason and abetting the disclosure of internal information and handed a conditional sentence of six years in jail.