Estonia not to close border for period of Russian presidential election

Russian citizens also took the opportunity to vote in the 2016 State Duma elections in the embassy building on Pikk Street in Tallinn.
Russian citizens also took the opportunity to vote in the 2016 State Duma elections in the embassy building on Pikk Street in Tallinn. Photo: Sander Ilvest

The Estonian government is not planning to close border crossings on the country's border with Russia for the duration of the Russian presidential election on March 17, Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets told.

In Estonia, Russian citizens living here will only be able to vote in the elections on the territory of the embassy of Russia in Tallinn. Just as the number of Russian diplomatic missions here was cut down to a minimum in spring 2022, after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, by closing the missions in Tartu and Narva, also the number of polling stations has been reduced to a minimum from the previous nine.

In essence, of course, what will happen on March 17 is not an election, but yet another day for the re-election of Vladimir Putin. This is also the position expressed by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: this is not an election, but electoral fraud, Postimees said.

The Russian embassy has announced that temporary polling stations will be set up on the Estonian-Russian border. For example, only 140 meters from the border in Ivangorod, as well as near the border crossings of Koidula and Luhamaa, as well as near Saatse, in southeastern Estonia.

Estonia will not follow Finland's suit and close the border. This means that, for example, Russian citizens living in Narva can go and vote at the polling station in neighboring Ivangorod.

According to the minister, Estonia will monitor the situation, but is not planning anything special.

«Our focus is on helping Ukraine,» he said, pointing out that events in Russia are being monitored, but we will not go along with them.

Laanemets says that Estonia closing the border would be more like what Russia would like.

«Whether 40 people go to vote across the border in Setomaa is not news. However, if Estonia forbids and obstructs, Russia will use it to its advantage,» he said.

In addition to temporary polling stations on the Estonian-Russian border, Russia is about to open similar stations on the border with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recently deemed it necessary to summon Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian diplomats in Moscow to relay Russia's demand that the security of Russia's diplomatic missions be ensured during the presidential election.

In December 2023, Rus.Postimees described in detail how citizens of the Russian Federation living in Estonia voted for Putin in previous years. In Estonia, Putin's results were reminiscent each time of the figures achieved in Russia only by the «electoral sultanates» of the North Caucasus.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were 80,908 citizens of the Russian Federation in Estonia with a valid right of residence and residence permit as of Oct.1 last year.