Estonia planning to close Narva border crossing point for the night from May

BNS
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The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board and the Ministry of the Interior want to close the Narva crossing point on the Estonian-Russian border for the night.
The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board and the Ministry of the Interior want to close the Narva crossing point on the Estonian-Russian border for the night. Photo: Tairo Lutter

The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board and the Ministry of the Interior want to close the Narva crossing point on the Estonian-Russian border for the night starting from May, as the number of people crossing the border during the night has halved compared with January.

The plan is for the Narva border crossing point to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The new arrangement would be in effect indefinitely.

Russia closed the border crossing point of Ivangorod, across the border from Narva, for vehicular traffic from February. This has resulted in a major decrease in the number of crossings -- from more than 170,000 in January to roughly 108,000 in February. The number of crossings during the night almost halved month on month to 13,000 in February.

Border Guard Chief Veiko Kommusaar said that considering all circumstances, it is reasonable to close the border crossing point for the night.

«Several factors support this decision. First, there has been a significant decrease in the number of nighttime border crossings, which makes it impractical to keep the border crossing point open around the clock. Second, we do not believe it is right that while Russia is engaged in a full-scale war against its neighbor and Estonia advises against visiting Russia, the Police and Border Guard Board spends Estonian taxpayers' money to keep the Narva border crossing point open 24/7,» he said.

Closing the border crossing point at 10 p.m. does not mean that it will be left unmanned. Officials will still be present on the premises around the clock, and the number of border crossing point employees will not be cut. The decision gives the Police and Border Guard Board the opportunity to reorganize their work so that they can perform more in-depth checks during the day and, if necessary, strengthen surveillance at the green border.

Ursula Riimaa, deputy director general for customs at the Tax and Customs Board, said it is important for customs to maintain a strong control background in order to prevent the movement of contraband and circumvention of sanctions at the border.

«In our view, international trade has already been redirected from Narva, and from now on we will focus on checks of the luggage and goods carried by passengers at the Narva customs checkpoint during the day,» said Riimaa.

Joosep Kaasik, deputy secretary general for internal security of the Ministry of the Interior, said the ministry intends to send the motion to change the work arrangement of the border crossing point to the government as soon as possible.

«We hope for a decision in a couple of weeks, then we will be able to introduce the new arrangement from May,» he said.

The deputy secretary general added that Estonia has consistently advised against any travel to Russia, including on the grounds that for security reasons, closure of border crossing points at short notice may be necessary, and returning to Estonia via the usual route may not be possible.

«Therefore, the risks regarding possible changes when it comes to getting to Russia have been known for a longer period,» he added.

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