Rus­sia jails Estonian po­lice­man for 15 years for spy­ing

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MAX DE­LANY

A Rus­sian court on Wed­nes­day sen­tenced an Estonian po­lice­man to 15 years in jail on es­pi­onage charges in a move slammed by the Euro­pean Union, as ten­sions spike over the Ukraine cri­sis.

A court in the western Pskov re­gion, which borders Es­to­nia, sen­tenced Es­ton Ko­hver on charges of spy­ing, weapon pos­ses­sion and il­le­gally cross­ing the bor­der, his court-ap­pointed lawyer, Yevgeny Aksy­onov, told AFP.

Pros­e­cu­tors claimed Ko­hver was de­tained on Rus­sian ter­ri­tory last Septem­ber as he car­ried out an un­der­cover op­er­a­tion.

Tallinn, how­ever,

ac­cuses Moscow’s FSB se­cu­rity ser­vice of kid­nap­ping the law en­force­ment of­fi­cer at gun­point from Estonian ter­ri­tory as he was in­ves­ti­gat­ing cross-bor­der crime.

“The ab­duc­tion of Es­ton Ko­hver from the ter­ri­tory of the Re­pub­lic of Es­to­nia by the FSB on 5 Septem­ber and his un­law­ful de­tain­ment in Rus­sia there­after con­sti­tute a bla­tant breach of in­ter­na­tional law,” Estonian For­eign Min­is­ter Ma­rina Kalju­rand said in a state­ment.

“To­day’s judge­ment does not change our po­si­tion. We call on Rus­sia to im­me­di­ately re­lease Es­ton Ko­hver.”

Ten­sions be­tween Rus­sia and the ex-Soviet Baltic states have soared over Rus­sia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea penin­sula and al­leged back­ing of pro-Rus­sian sep­a­ratists in eastern Ukraine.

Many in Es­to­nia be­lieve the tim­ing of Ko­hver’s ar­rest was de­lib­er­ate, com­ing just two days af­ter U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­ited Tallinn to trum­pet Baltic se­cu­rity fol­low­ing Rus­sia’s role in the Ukraine cri­sis.

The Estonian for­eign min­is­ter slammed Ko­hver’s trial, say­ing there had been “no fair ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice in the pro­ceed­ings.”

“Our con­sul was not al­lowed to be present at the hear­ings and Es­ton Ko­hver was de­prived of ad­e­quate le­gal aid,” Kalju­rand said.

EU Slams ‘ab­duc­tion’

EU For­eign

Min­is­ter Fed­er­ica Mogherini also urged Rus­sia to free Ko­hver, de­nounc­ing his “ab­duc­tion” as a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.

“The EU con­tin­ues to call on the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion to act ac­cord­ing to its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions, re­lease Mr. Ko­hver im­me­di­ately and guar­an­tee his safe re­turn to Es­to­nia,” Mogherini said in a state­ment.

Baltic states Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia emerged from nearly five decades of Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion in the early 1990s and joined NATO and the Euro­pean Union in 2004 in a bid to shore up their se­cu­rity amid tense re­la­tions with Moscow.

Lead­ers

in

Eastern Europe have grown in­creas­ingly jit­tery of Rus­sia’s ex­pan­sion­ism in Ukraine, with some hawk­ish voices in the West sug­gest­ing Moscow could try to in­ter­vene in the Baltics.

The spike in ten­sions has also seen a rise in spy­ing claims by Moscow and its neigh­bors, in a se­ries of Cold War-style tit-for-tat in­ci­dents.

Rus­sia’s fed­eral se­cu­rity ser­vice said in May that it was hold­ing a Lithua­nian spy caught “red-handed” in Moscow dur­ing an ex­change of se­cret doc­u­ments.

The an­nounce­ment came just days af­ter Lithua­nian pros­e­cu­tors said they had de­tained a Rus­sian citizen sus­pected of spy­ing.

AP

In this Sept. 17, 2014 video grab made avail­able by the APTN on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 19, Es­ton Ko­hver of Es­to­nia stands be­hind bars in Pskov, Rus­sia.

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