Estonia Says Russia Removed Border Markers as Tensions Rise

(Bloomberg) -- Estonian border authorities accused Russian counterparts of removing a set of buoy markers on the Narva River, as Baltic leaders raised concerns this week over confusing signals from Moscow over demarcating its frontiers.

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The border guard service of the Baltic nation accused Russian officials of carrying off 24 of 50 buoys helping to separate the two countries on the waterway at 3 a.m. local time, according to a statement. The markers had been placed within Estonian waters by authorities over the last 10 days.

“Russia uses border issues as a means to create fear and anxiety,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said at a press conference in Tallinn Thursday. “We will approach this incident soberly, in a balanced way, if needed also in communication with partners and allies.”

The incident comes a day after a Russian Defense Ministry proposal to modify the country’s Baltic Sea border and territorial waters prompted vocal responses from Lithuania and Finland. The document outlining the draft proposal was later removed from a government website without explanation.

The Narva River border had been a matter of dispute earlier this year, when Russia said it didn’t accept the location of half of the 250 buoys proposed by Estonian officials, the border guard statement said. The floating markers, positioned each spring, are used for boats to navigate the river without veering into Russian waters.

Read More: Russia Pulls Notice of Baltic Sea Border Plan That Raised Alarm

An Estonian border official, Eerik Purgel, said the buoys were marked for the summer season according to a 2022 agreement as a guide for those fishing or boating in the waters.

“While the installation of buoys largely took place by mutual agreement before the beginning of the war in Ukraine, since 2023 Russia hasn’t agreed with Estonia’s positioning,” Purgel said in a statement. The authority will contact Russian counterparts to discuss the issue, he said.

Estonia, a European Union and NATO member with a population of 1.3 million, has been an outspoken critic of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The Baltic nation has been a target of Moscow, with Kallas earlier this year landing on a Russian wanted list for criminals.

(Updates with comments from prime minister from third paragraph.)

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