Russia voids border treaty with Estonia

Monday, June 27, 2005

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RIA Novosti during a visit to Helsinki that the Russian Federation had decided to revoke its signature from the border agreements it signed with the Estonian government in Moscow on May 18.

The move comes just one week after the Estonian Riigikogu ratified the border document which slightly amends the border that has been used since Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

A source inside the Russian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass that the preamble to the document as ratified by the Estonian parliament was "unacceptable" because it mentioned the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920, by which the Russian Socialist Federal Republic recognized the independent statehood of Estonia.

Alexander Yakovenko, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry told Gateway 2 Russia, another Russian news wire, that this set up a situation where Estonia could claim land from Russia. Estonia lost 5 percent of its territory to Russia when authorities delineated the Estonian Soviet Federal Republic from the Russian Soviet Federal Republic in 1945.

However, the Estonian Foreign Ministry has reiterated its stance that the border treaty seals the border with Russia, and the preamble makes no claims to Russian territory.

"The Estonian side has repeatedly assured that it has not linked any new issues to the border treaties, and thus, the Russian side's assertion that Estonia has added new aspects to the treaty is ungrounded," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Estonian and Russian officials first agreed upon the border treaty in 1996, and then initialed them in 1999, according to the website of the Estonian Foreign Ministry. The preamble included with the treaty signed in May stated that the agreement would have no impact on other issues concerning Estonian-Russian bilateral relations and Urmas Paet, the Estonian foreign minister said in a statement on June 27 that Estonia has no land claims to Russia.

"Russia does not have the will to normalize relations with Estonia and, I would say, even with the European Union and NATO," explained Marko Mihkelson, the deputy chairman of the Estonian foreign relations commission in a statement.

"This is because here, indeed, we are talking about Estonian-Russian border, which is not only a border between the two states but also a border between the European Union and Russia," he said.

Estonia is now urging Russia to reconsider its stance, while Lavrov told reporters in Helsinki that the two parties will have to start from scratch.