Russia arbitrarily removes channel-marking buoys from Estonian waters in Narva River

Thursday, 23 May 2024

Russian border guards have removed buoys marking the navigable channel from Estonian waters on the Narva River, which are restored every spring; Estonia is awaiting explanations.

As reported by ERR, on the night of 23 May, Russian border guards dismantled several dozen buoys that marked the navigable riverbed in Narva, Estonia. Estonia puts these buoys before the start of summer every year, sometimes with alterations because the depth of the river in a certain zone varies over time. This year, they began to be placed there on 13 May.

Eerik Purgel, the chief of the Police and Border Guard Board, noted that before Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, Estonia and Russia agreed to build fairway markers, but since 2023, the Russian Federation has not consented to Estonia's recommendations.

"We decided to release the floating marks into the water for the summer season according to the 2022 agreement, because they are necessary to avoid navigational errors, so that our fishermen and other hobbyists do not accidentally wander into Russian waters," Purgel explained.


According to him, the Russian Federation announced this year that they do not agree with the installation location of around half of the 250 buoys. Last night, Russian border guards removed 24 buoys, some of which Russia had mentioned in the announcement.

"The Police and Border Guard Board will contact the Russian Border Guard and request clarifications on the removal of the buoys and return of buoys. The Police and Border Guard Board expects evidence from Russia that the position of the shipping route agreed so far has changed and, if they are not presented, we will continue to install buoys," Purgel added.

In her initial statement on the event, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Tallinn will treat the situation objectively and, if required, speak with allies.

"We see a broader pattern of Russian actions trying to sow anxiety," Kallas said.

Foreign Minister Margus Tsakhkna stated that the situation should be handled gently, as it is part of Russia's previous confrontational behaviour.

The initiative, which was published on the Russian government's website earlier this week, indicated Moscow's ambitions to unilaterally redraw its maritime borders with its Baltic Sea neighbours. After a while, the project disappeared from the website.

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