VIDEO Russian border guard removes buoys marking fairway from Narva River


The Russian border guard on Thursday night removed from Narva River 24 buoys placed in Estonian waters to mark the fairway.

Eerik Purgel, the head of the border and migration control service at the East Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board, said that every spring, Estonia and Russia install buoys in Narva River that mark the fairway.

«While the temporary control line is permanently marked along the land border, the river bed changes over time, which is why we review the fairway markings every spring. While before the start of the war in Ukraine, the installation of buoys was largely by mutual agreement, since last year, Russia does not agree with Estonia's position regarding the placement of buoys. We decided to launch the buoys for the summer season according to the 2022 agreement, because they are necessary to avoid navigation errors, so that our fishermen and other hobby boaters do not accidentally end up in Russian waters,» Purgel said.

This year, Russia announced that it does not agree with the locations of about half of the planned 250 floating markers. Estonia installed light buoys in Estonian waters based on the State Borders Act and the locations of the buoys agreed between the border agencies in 2022. The first 50 buoys were installed in Narva River on May 13.

At around 3 a.m. on Thursday, the Estonian border guards discovered that the Russian border guards had started to remove the floating markers and brought out 24 buoys from the river during the night, some of which were among the disputed markers.

«The Police and Border Guard Board will contact the Russian border guard and demand an explanation about the removal of the buoys and the return of the buoys. The Police and Border Guard Board is waiting for evidence from Russia that the location of the fairway agreed so far has changed, and if it is not provided, we will continue with the installation of buoys,» Purgel said.

Buoys have been installed on the river for the navigation season for decades and are necessary to prevent navigation errors.

Police chief: We didn't intervene on Narva River to prevent escalation

TALLINN, May 23, BNS – In order to prevent escalation, Estonian border guards did not intervene when, on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, Russian border guards started to remove border boys installed in Narva River by Estonian border guards to mark the fairway, the director general of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board said.

«This was yet another act of provocation on the part of Russia. We didn't go there to stop them physically, we use diplomatic means to deal with such situations,» the national police and border guard chief, Egert Belitsev, told reporters.

According to the police and border guard director, the incident took place on the territory of Estonia as far as the Police and Border Guard Board is aware. It must be taken into account, however, that the buoys were placed there to give an idea to boaters of where the border runs.

«It cannot be ruled out that the waves and the river current move the buoys, so if we had intervened, at one point we would have run the risk of being on the Russian side. We can't risk one of our people ending up in prison in Russia at some point. The risk of escalation was very high,» Belitsev said.

Border guard service to continue installing buoys in Narva River

Despite the incident last night, Estonian border guards will continue installing border buoys in Narva River.

Eerik Purgel, head of the border guard bureau of the East Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board, said the work to install the buoys for the summer navigation season is in its early stages.

«Out of the usual 250 buoys, we installed 50 on Narva River on May 13, of which 25 were removed by Russian border guards overnight. Since these markers are important for boaters during the navigation season, we will continue installing the buoys in the planned locations,» Purgel told BNS.

«We contacted the office of the Russian border representative today to meet and get a clarification on the removal of the buoys. We are also demanding the return of the removed buoys. Unless the Russian side provides further evidence or information on the reasons for the change of the fairway, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board will continue to install the buoys,» Purgel said.

Estonian border guards recorded the activity of the Russian border guards in removing the buoys on the night between Wednesday and Thursday and monitored it with surveillance equipment.

«As the buoys were installed in places where Russia has accepted them for years, the main purpose of their removal could only have been to provoke an inadequate reaction from the Estonian side,» Purgel added.

«We decided to record and monitor these activities and resolve the incident through diplomatic channels. It must be taken into account that the buoys are installed in the water, where their location is affected by the wind and river flow, and if the border crossing were to be recorded on-site, Estonian border guards could also have ended up on the Russian side or the situation could have escalated quickly in some other way.»

According to the official, working relations with Russian border guards have essentially ceased to exist since the start of war of aggression against Ukraine.

«We have seen attempts by Russia to cause disturbance by its actions and test its neighbors. We saw it, for example, at the Finnish border crossing points at the end of last year, and on the night before Thursday we saw it on Narva River,» Purgel added.

The Police and Border Guard Board continues to monitor the situation and reckons that more such attempts will be made in the future.