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Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets said that on the Russian side of the southeastern border with his country, the Russian authorities rounded up the Ukrainian refugees who were there and took them somewhere on trucks.
It is reported by Ukrinform with reference to the national broadcaster ERR.
“Before, a little more than a thousand people were waiting at the border, but today they are no longer there – they were put on trucks and taken away,” Läänemets said on local radio.
According to him, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) is trying to get more information about the future fate of the Ukrainians. To this end, the PPA is using drones to find out if the Russian authorities are sending these people somewhere in the green border zone, as Belarus did with refugees last year on the border with Lithuania and Latvia.
“Thousand people are already quite a lot, but we are ready for this,” the interior minister said.
Läänemets admitted that Estonia can only speculate about the real reasons for this situation, but he believes that “the order to do all this must have come from above,” that is, from the Russian authorities.
The minister stressed that illegal border crossings must be prevented in any case. Recently, the PPA worked out similar situations together with the Defense League (Estonian Self-Defense Forces). Also, in preparation for this, appropriate amendments to Estonian legislation were adopted.
“This means that a real physical barrier will be put up there, people will go there [пограничники], i.e. these people will not be physically allowed through. And if there are those who want to apply for asylum, then in this case, you can either tell them to go to the border crossing, or create some kind of temporary point there where procedures can be carried out,” Läänemets explained.
He stressed that if Russia massively sends people to illegally cross the border, then Estonia cannot assume that all these people are Ukrainian refugees.
“Of course, everyone else will be placed in this crowd, as well as citizens of the Russian Federation, all kinds of agents and other people,” the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs believes.
According to him, Estonia established a connection with the Embassy of Ukraine to check the biographies of arriving people, i.e. find out if they are who they say they are. Moreover, now Estonia lets people in even with a copy of the Ukrainian passport. But since Russia has room for all kinds of fakes, there are people on the Estonian side of the border who talk to the arrivals and try to identify those who are among the Ukrainian refugees, but lie about their origin and motivation.
As previously reported, in late September – early October, impressive queues accumulated at the Russian border points with Estonia and Latvia, mostly Ukrainian refugees. They ended up in Russia after a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and are trying to leave for the EU countries, but they cannot cross the border for days: according to eyewitnesses, the Russian side checks documents extremely slowly.
On the Russian side of the border, Ukrainian refugees are forced to go through “filtration”. They are freezing on the street, sleeping in the waiting rooms of the border checkpoints, Russian volunteers are trying to help them with food, water and lodging for the night. Many people get sick under these conditions.
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