Estonia says Russia removed navigation buoys on border river

FILE PHOTO: Estonia stops Russians from entering with Schengen-issued visas

VILNIUS (Reuters) -Russian border guards have removed navigation buoys from the Estonian side of a river separating the two countries, the Baltic nation said on Thursday, adding that it would seek an explanation as well as a return of the equipment.

Some 24 out of 50 buoys recently placed on the Narva river to mark sailing routes were removed in the early hours of Thursday the Estonian police and border guard said in a statement.

Natural changes to the riverbed make it necessary to retrace shipping routes annually, the authority said, adding that the location of buoys between Russia and Estonia had been disputed since the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The Russian defence ministry earlier this week briefly published a proposal to revise Russia's maritime border in the eastern Baltic Sea, but later deleted it from an official portal after creating concern among NATO members, including Estonia.

It was not immediately clear if the removal of buoys was related to any Russian Baltic Sea border plan.

The Estonian foreign ministry said it treated the removal as a provocative border incident and would demand an explanation as well as the return of the buoys immediately.

"This action by Russia, carried out in the shadow of the night, fits well within the broader pattern of Russia's provocative behaviour, including on its borders with neighbours," it said in a statement.

The Narva river runs from a lake between Russia and Estonia and ends up in the Gulf of Finland, part of the Baltic Sea.

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Russia's Baltic Sea borders should be in accordance with international law, and that the defence ministry's work to clarify the border was of a technical nature.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas, writing by Louise Rasmussen, editing by Terje Solsvik, Philippa Fletcher, Alexandra Hudson)