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Russia jails Estonian policeman for 15 years for spying


jail-loyarburokA Russian court on Wednesday sentenced an Estonian policeman to 15 years in jail on espionage charges in a move slammed by Moscow’s tiny NATO-member neighbour.

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 US 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.

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.

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