EU denounces removal of buoys marking Estonia-Russia border

This Thursday, the leaders of the Baltic countries also cautiously welcomed the information according to which Russia could revise the borders of its territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.

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The European Union has described it as “unacceptable“Russia’s removal of buoys marking the border with Estonia on the Narva River.

According to Estonian border guards, their Russian counterparts removed 24 of the 50 buoys in the early hours of Thursday intended to mark navigation routes on the border waterway.

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These buoys have been installed on the river for decades to avoid navigation errors.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called their withdrawal a “provocation“and asked Moscow for a “explanation“.

This border incident is part of a broader context of provocative behavior and hybrid actions by Russia, including on its maritime and land borders in the Baltic Sea region“, declared the head of EU diplomacy in a press release published on Friday.

The European Union expects Russia to explain the removal of the buoys and to immediately put them back in place.”he added.

Estonia “calm and lucid”

In its response to Thursday’s incident, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said it would remain “calm and lucid“, adding that he intended to use his representatives at the border and diplomatic channels to require a formal explanation and the rapid return of the buoyss.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas stated that “Russia uses border-related tools to create fear and anxiety, in order to sow insecurity in our societies“.

“We are seeing a broader trend in this area”added Ms Kallas, who is one of the European Union’s most vocal critics of the Russian regime.

Tallinn claims that Moscow has disputed the positioning of the buoys since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Estonia has summoned a Russian representative following this incident.

The incident comes amid growing concern over Moscow’s use of a so-called hybrid war intended to destabilize its European neighbors, particularly in the Baltic countries.

“Provocation”

The removal of the buoys took place just two days after Moscow’s plans to redraw its territorial waters in the Baltic according to Soviet-era borders, demarcated in 1985.

The proposal appeared on an official government portal, but was abruptly deleted on Wednesday, 24 hours after its publication, without any official explanation from the Kremlin.

It has sparked fears and speculation about the possibility that Russia plans to encroach on Lithuania’s territorial waters surrounding the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, as well as in the Gulf of Finland.

While Finnish President Alexander Stubb, responsible for the country’s external relations, committed to reacting “calmly and on the basis of facts”Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis gave a more scathing response.

A new Russian hybrid operation is underway, this time in an attempt to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea” said Mr. Landsbergis on X. “This is a clear escalation against human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Lithuania also summoned a Russian representative for him to explain the information disseminated by the media, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vilnius directly called on Russia to respect “the universally recognized principles and norms of international law”.

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Friday, a senior EU official strongly condemned the Narva River incident and the leak of the decree proposing to redraw the maritime borders. “These are Russian provocations, period. They are trying to test our response and our resolve” the official said.

The issue is expected to be discussed at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels next Monday. The German, French and Belgian foreign ministers have already expressed their solidarity with Estonia, Lithuania and Finland.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock criticized Russia for what she described as attempts to “sow trouble at the borders of the European Union”.

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