Sa, 4.02.2023

Do shells fly in zigzag? Defense Minister Pevkur straightened the Nursipalu map in a strange way

Ülle Harju
, ajakirjanik
Do shells fly in zigzag? Defense Minister Pevkur straightened the Nursipalu map in a strange way
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter
Ala-Kurgja farm in Luhametsa village is one of the households that Hanno Pevkur cut out of the training ground.
Ala-Kurgja farm in Luhametsa village is one of the households that Hanno Pevkur cut out of the training ground. Photo: Arvo Meeks/Lõuna-eesti Postimees
  • The minister does not want to break up the community.
  • It is clear to the farmer that the present border would not last.
  • Unless an agreement is reached with the locals, a new decision is needed, defense officials say.

Heavy weapons cannot be fired in zigzag the way the meandering border of the extension of the Nursipalu training ground runs after the reduction at the request of the Minister of Defense; therefore it will be up to the next government to decide whether to take the land and houses from the people in the area or to exclude the entire village of Luhametsa from the extension of the training ground.

Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (RE) traveled to Võru County on November 21, displayed the map of Nursipalu on the wall for the first time, and assured the audience that he had made a political decision to leave out a large piece of the village of Luhametsa from the expansion of the training area, which the Defense Forces had wanted to take over.

“We cannot tear the community apart,” Pevkur explained.

The large jog on the western edge of the extension of the Defense Forces training area seemed strange to the locals. “It is completely incomprehensible," commented grain farmer Taivo Tuusis, from whom the state wants to take away 175 hectares of farmland and built-up property in Luhametsa. “Why doesn't the extension run along the Sänna road, why are these notches there – there aren't even any households inside them?"

"Very strange, this border splits up my field diagonally! If they want, let them take the whole property,” said farmer Urmas Uder. “Splitting up the property lowers its value as well.”

“The expansion of the training ground is based on the danger area of ​​the weapons: the danger area of ​​the weapon itself, the firing position and the location of the target,” explained Elari Kalmaru, portfolio manager of the Defense Investment Center's (RKIK) training grounds.

“The most important thing for Nursipalu is to achieve the ability to conduct live fire exercises and maneuvers of a battalion-size unit. If we compare the Scouts Battalion and their CV-90, which has a 35-millimeter gun, its danger area is approximately seven kilometers,” RKIK General Director Magnus-Valdemar Saar told the national broadcaster even before the limits of the extension of the training ground were disclosed.

“Weapons can also be fired on the move and their danger area in such cases is considerably larger than when shooting from a stationary position” explained Hanna Heinnurm, head of communications at RKIK.

Postimees sketched the danger area of ​​a heavy weapon firing over seven kilometers according to the RKIK instructions. If the firing is carried out in a narrower sector, the entire village of Luhametsa would remain outside the danger zone so that no one would have to move out of their homes or sell their fields to the state. However, in case of a wider sector Pevkur’s zigzag piece of land would remain inside the danger zone – someone could be hit during live fire practice. The Defense Force's safety rules resolutely forbid it.

Therefore, depending on the weapons, either one or the other is possible, but not the option offered by Pevkur.

Pevkur did not draw the line

Pevkur's option is a purely political decision, he confirms.

“Pevkur's logic was that the village of Luhamets was too large a piece, and he took it out,” Heinnurm explained. “As many cadastral borders, roads, ditches, targets, etc. as possible have been taken into account in the area of interest," added Elari Kalmaru.

“Of course, not everything is in place down to the last centimeter,” commented Kaupo Kaasik, coordinator of infrastructure projects at RKIK. "There are many weapons and there are dozens or even hundreds of danger areas. It depends from which point and where you are shooting. The danger areas are different: some are very elongated, some form a wide sector. Those of the heavier weapons are three or four kilometers wide. But that only applies when one gun fires from a stationary position. If there are several weapons next to each other, the width will immediately increase. If you turn the barrel to the left or right, it becomes wider still.”

Pevkur left the village out of the extension for now, but when the elections are over, will the new government redraw the original border? “Mmmmm... you have to ask Pevkur about that,” answered Heinnurm.

The property of influential people was left out

In Luhametsa, over 75 hectares of land belong to Antsla municipal council member Lehar Neve, the brother of Airi Tooming, the head of Naiskodukaitse. Almost 13 hectares extend like a bulge into the training area. Some property in the village also belongs to Tooming's own company.

When the impact of the training area – the loss of homes and the noise – was discussed in the Antsla municipal council, Lehar Neve was the only one to speak in a completely different tone: “Actually, it is very good news that the training area will be expanded. Of course, the fact that the area will be smaller than originally intended was bad news for a certain group. Some of the residents of Luhametsa would have been very interested in transferring their lands and houses to the state." (Antsla municipal council session November 22, 2022, Youtube Tsooru Kant)

“Why not sell is you receive a good offer!” Neve himself confirmed to Postimees, claiming that he would prefer replacement land in a more favorable area where he owns larger land units.

Neve admitted that he could not name anyone else who would want to give up their land. However, he estimated that it would be useful for a couple of local farmers to receive compensation from the state and retire peacefully.

The border need not last

"According to the initial plan, I had to go give up three houses,” Neve explained. “True, these are summer cottage plots for sale. Now one was left on the border; I shall offer it to the state. If I sell it to someone else – it would not be easier for the state to acquire it afterwards. It is clear that the current border will not remain there. The military said already that they were not satisfied with this territory. Pevkur made a political decision to reduce the outcry or whatever. So as to leave as few households as possible in its borders.”

The farm of Margus Mõttus, who strongly criticized the expansion of the Nursipalu training ground on several occasions, has also been left out. Before the Pevkur border was made public, Mõttus told Postimees that he was ready to fight for his village – “for those who do not dare to fight for themselves and allow themselves to be driven away like sheep”.

Are the exceptions based on the fact that the properties belong to well-known and articulate people? “Certainly not on an individual basis,” answered Kaupo Kaasik from RKIK.

Did the locals put pressure on anyone? In the story about Nursipalu in Õhtuleht, there is a sentence: “The current village head Laikvee Margus had a good lawyer who imposed his will on the Ministry of Defense and the municipal administration.”

“The decision was essentially made without involving us,” however, the lawyer Indrek Kukk rejected this speculation.

Can you reduce the training ground so that the rest of the people could also stay in their homes?

“I'm quoting the minister: no one is evicted by force,” replied Kaupo Kaasik. “Transactions take place only by agreement. If an agreement is not reached, another decision must be made."

A curious cut was made in Nursi as well

“According to the plan the weapons would shoot towards Nursi, from Võru towards the current training ground, but not only,” Kaupo Kaasik explained the undisclosed plan, which means that instead of the previous ten kilometers, the people of Võru will start hearing the shots of heavy weapons coming from Tsiatsungõlmaa, 3.2 kilometers away.

“In Nursi, the border of the land plot effectively runs at the window of Kaku mill, but the others are inside; you cannot understand that either,” Taivo Tuusis referred to his brother's farm. Tarvi Tuusis told ETV news broadcast (November 27) that he will lose 60 hectares of land and a herd of cattle; in addition, his son's dream of continuing the ancestral farm will be shattered.

Taivo Tuusis is skeptical about the promises of the Defense Forces. “My mother's home will be lost. Eight years ago, when they began to build in Nursipalu, they promised triple-glazed windows, etc. – to this day, nothing has happened!” he said.

However, according to the reconstruction of the danger areas of the shooting exercises, Tarvi Tuusis should not give up his home either: if the weapons are fired towards the Kaku mill on the one side and the border of the nature reserve on the other, the Tuusis farm would remain outside the danger zone. It is 3.4 kilometers to the Kaku mill and almost as much to the nature reserve, which, according to Hanna Heinnurm, would not come under fire.

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur: this is a completely unnecessary speculation

Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur, the border of the Nursipalu training ground is illogical and does not match the range of weapons. The Center for Defense Investments (RKIK) said that you had left out a piece of Luhamets village from the original plan so that things would not seem so bad?

It's not a matter of seeming; the point is that the community should be reasonably involved there on the one hand, while on the other hand, we cannot tear the community apart.

Of course, it is possible to look at it from the point of view of the defense forces, that they need it. It is important to me that the local community remains healthy.

So it was a political decision?

It was, yes, my decision. At my suggestion, yes, the village of Luhametsa was left out of it.

By what principle did you draw this line?

It was not a matter of drawing a line, rather it was a question of one village – we went as far as the state-owned lands begin. The other areas remained as the defense force and RKIK had proposed.

My guideline was that we leave out the village of Luhametsa. I did not draw a line with my finger on the map. They looked at where to draw the line so that it would disturb as few people as possible. According to roads and property boundaries.

Properties belonging to influential persons have been excluded.

I really do not know it, do not ask me that! I didn't give any specific directions; I do not even know who lives there!

According to the ranges of fire of the weapons, the Luhametsa village should remain inside the training ground. Could it be that once the election is over, the new government will restore the original border?

Well, I would not make any speculations! Naturally, the defense force wanted more.

So it will all depend on the new government...?

There is no point in speculating on this matter. It is completely unnecessary speculation that there will be a new government! Maybe there will be a war!

Translated by Kristjan Tedre.