Your Saturday’s night conspiracy theory story came out fresh not from Tv series but from reality
Russia and Estonia exchanged two men accused of espionage at a remote border post on Saturday in an episode reminiscent of a Cold War spy thriller that follows heightened tensions between the neighbors.
Estonian security officer Eston Kohver, imprisoned by Moscow on espionage charges, is back home after being exchanged for jailed Russian spy Aleksei Dressen.
Interior Minister Hanno Pevkur confirmed that Kohver, an officer with the country’s Internal Security Service, is back in Estonia.Pevkur said that Kohver, who spent almost 13 months in Russian prisons, will be reunited with his family.
Kohver was detained at the Russian border last September, with Estonia and the EU insisting he was on Estonian soil and Russia saying he was on Russian territory.
Kohver's arrest last September provoked a dispute between the two countries. Estonia said he was abducted on the Estonian side of the frontier but Russia said he had been caught on its territory carrying a pistol and ammunition, 5,000 euros in cash and spying equipment.
Russia sentenced him last month to 15 years hard labor, provoking condemnation from Western governments as well as Estonia.There had been speculation, however, that Kohver would ultimately be swapped for a Russian spy held in Estonia.
Estonia joined Nato and the EU in 2004.
The prisoners were swapped in southeastern Estonia at the border with Russia.
Two border checkpoints were closed during the exchange, which took place on a bridge over the Piusa River that divides Russia’s western Pskov region and Estonia’s Polva county, according to a statement by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
Saturday’s swap marks a rare moment of de-escalation in the Baltic region, where military and diplomatic tension has grown steadily since Russia annexed part of Ukraine last year, prompting Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia to ramp up their defense capabilities.
The exchange comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to address the UN General Assembly on September 28.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it handed over Eston Kohver, an Estonian security officer detained by Russia last year, in exchange for Alexei Dressen — a former Estonian official serving a 16-year jail term for being a Russian spy.
Estonian officials confirmed the swap, which took place at a bridge over the Piusa river in a forested border region a few miles south of Lake Peipus.
“Both sides found a suitable solution,” the director of Estonia’s Internal Security Service, Arnold Sinisalu, told a televised news conference.He sat alongside Kohver, who said it was “good to be back in my homeland”.
Dressen, the other alleged spy, was convicted by Estonia in 2012 of treason and divulging state secrets.
He was detained at Tallinn airport with his wife in February 2012, just before she was due to board a flight to Moscow carrying what Estonian prosecutors said were classified documents.
Russian news agency RIA cited a source in the FSB as saying Dressen had worked for Russian counter-intelligence since the 1990s, transferring information about U.S. and British spies working in the Baltic countries.
Saturday’s swap follows a deterioration of relations, which have also been strained by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
Related:US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt In Estonia: Amid Russian Hostility, Aircraft Arrive In The Baltics
Twelve U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft arrived,on the 21st of September , at an Estonian air force base as part of an operation to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, according to a U.S. Air Force report. The aircraft landed in the Baltic country after flying from Germany and are expected to spend the next six months training with NATO allies and other European partners.
The aircraft are originally from the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, and are being used to augment the U.S. military’s attempts to bring security and stability to Europe, according to the statement. The exercise, which is part of a cross-continental mission known as Operation Atlantic Resolve, is designed to be a show of force against Russian intimidation after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in March 2014 and continues to be involved in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
Estonia ‘plans Russia border fence’ amid Ukraine tensions
Estonia says it wants to build a fence along its eastern border with Russia to boost security and protect the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone.
Construction on the fence, planned to be about 110km (70 miles) long and 2.5m (8ft) high, is set to start in 2018.It is expected to cost about €71m (£52m; $80m), according to reports.
The plans come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict. Europe is also struggling with an influx of migrants.
“The aim of the construction is to cover the land border with 100%, around-the-clock technical surveillance to create ideal conditions for border guarding and to ensure the security of Estonia and the Schengen area,” interior ministry spokesman Toomas Viks told to media.
Sources: Reuters, WSJ, BBC.com, Image Credit: Twitter