The Economist senior editor Edward Lucas told ETV the move to apprehend Estonian secret service official Eston Kohver may backfire in the long run, as Russia could have a famous political prisoner on its hands for the next 20 years, which will become an irritant.
Eston Kohver
© Stopkadras

In an interview with ETV's "Pealtnägija" program, Lucas said Russia could exchange him for Herman Simm, or escalate propaganda once the focus is off Ukraine.

To the best of your knowledge, what happened last week on our Estonian eastern border?

I don't have any inside information on this, but it seems pretty clear Mr. Kohver was meeting an informant from a Russian crime gang - he was there with money to give this informant. He was jumped very close to the border by a bunch of men.

We don't know if it's FSB or gangsters, not that there's much difference these days. He was dragged across the border and they used a smoke grenade and jammed communications to stop his armed backup getting to him to help.

The sand marks on the sand cordon on the border seemed pretty conclusive this was a group, not just one guy crossing the border, and he is now a victim of a [...] provocation. I fear for his safety and for Estonia's.

You have described this as a slap in the face for Estonia and its Western allies. Why?

I think this really isn't a coincidence that this comes just after Mr. Obama was in Tallinn, giving that fantastic speech. It's a challenge to say to the world and to Estonia - well, what are you going to do about that then?

It is very difficult for Estonia now as it doesn't want to act alone because it will look isolated, and if it appeals for outside support and doesn't get it publicly that is bad. Now it's stuck with the very slow pace of international diplomacy, trying to get its friends and allies interested in this case at a time when there is a great deal going on elsewhere.

What should Estonia do in this situation? How can we avoid Kohver spending the next 20 years in prison in Russia?

Estonia has to do what it is doing at the moment. It has to be very remain calm and look like a civilized, normal country. It needs to keep working on its allies and make sure this is a NATO issue, not just an issue for Estonia.

It needs to coordinate its public messaging very much. It needs to not look weak or panicked and keep public confidence in the Western alliance as strong as possible.

But I must say, personally I find it extremely frustrating and I am very angry about it and very upset, and feel very sorry for Mr. Kohver and his family and for Estonia. I very much hope that the outside world will repay Estonia for all the loyalty and sacrifice that Estonia showed towards its allies in previous years.

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