European countries condemn Estonian's abduction

AP News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2014 10:47 AM

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Nine European countries demanded on Friday that Russia immediately release an Estonian security service officer who was abducted by unknown gunmen a week ago and taken across the Russian border.

At a scheduled meeting in Tallinn, the capital, eight Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers expressed "deep concern" over the Sept. 5 abduction and arrest of Eston Kohver, who is now in custody in Moscow. Later Friday, Germany joined the chorus of countries demanding his release.

Russia's government did not immediately react to their demands.

Relations between Russia and the Baltic nations have often been uneasy, but Moscow's support of pro-Russian insurgents fighting in Ukraine has heightened those tensions. Recently, President Barack Obama visited Estonia to assure it that NATO would protect it against any Russian threat.

Two lawyers hired by Estonia's government have met with Kohver in Moscow and said they believe he will be charged with espionage. He is being held in the high security Lefortovo prison in Moscow, according to Russian media. A court is to hear his lawyers' appeal of the arrest on Thursday, authorities in Moscow said.

Russia claims he was detained on its territory, but Estonia says Kohver was investigating cross-border crime when he was abducted at gunpoint on Estonian territory. The Baltic country's police chief, Elmar Vaher, told national broadcaster ERR that Kohver was investigating a smuggling operation involving agents from the Russian Federal Security Service.

In Brussels, the European Union said the abduction on Estonian territory "runs against international law and the principle of inviolability of borders" and called for Kohver's immediate release.

Kohver has been described by Estonian authorities as a decorated police officer and an expert in the battle against terrorism and extremism.

Kohver could face up to 20 years in jail under Russian law, if he is convicted of spying.