About 500-600 Ukrainian refugees enter Estonia every day through the Luhamaa and Koidula crossing points. Refugees are currently waiting up to five days in the open, with minimal shelter and food, to leave Russia through the Kunichina Gora border crossing.
Estonia is now preparing for the arrival of more refugees, “Aktuaalne kaamera” (AK) reported on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the interior minister and law enforcement officials inspected the situation at the Luhamaa crossing point.
Border guards said they were ready to take in more refugees, but they were also ready if something similar to the “hybrid attack” on the Belarusian-Polish border occurs. Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said on Tuesday that Estonia should be prepared for such an event.
Läänemets told AK: “If we think of such a massive, illegal border crossing, then the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) prepared for it together with the Defense League. Recently, a large-scale exercise scale has also been conducted. In fact, the necessary changes to the law have been made to allow us to control the situation. I believe that we are ready for that.
APP’s Egert Belitšev said the agency helps newly arrived Ukrainian refugees.
“As for border control procedures, we are ready to accept every person and provide assistance from our side,” he said.
“You have to take into account that these people who arrive at the Luhamaa crossing point have spent days – sometimes four or five days – standing in the open on the side of the Russian Federation, waiting for their turn to cross the border. They have the children, the families, and when they arrive in Estonia, they are waiting to be transported.”
AK reports that several thousand Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war are queuing at the border waiting to leave Russia and enter Estonia.
Given the weather – last night storm warnings were issued across the country – their journeys will not get any easier and it is important to offer them help when they reach Estonia if needed, said said the Minister of the Interior.
“The main help they need is that they want to warm up, they want to eat, they want information on where to continue, if they don’t know exactly where their bus is or s “They have another plan to go to Europe. And medical care if needed,” Läänemets said.
The minister said there was no need to send blankets or similar items to the border as the refugees do not plan to stay. The vast majority want to travel to other EU countries.
“[But] for those who want [to stay]there is a bus that takes them to Tartu and they will be received and cared for at the [refugee] center there. Others want to warm up and then continue to Europe,” said Läänemets.
British Ambassador: Predictable appalling treatment from Russia
British Ambassador Ross Allen accompanied the Minister. during Tuesday’s visit and spoke with PPA, refugees and saw Estonia’s border infrastructure.
He called the treatment of refugees on the Russian side of the border “predictably appalling”.
“We heard how [Russian] border guards do [Ukrainain] refugees wait up to five days without help. Predictable appalling treatment. As a dad, it is very difficult to see children in such difficulty. The authorities and many volunteers are helping people as much as they can once they are here,” he wrote on social media after the trip.
I joined the Minister of the Interior @LaanemetsLauri during a visit to the Luhamaa border area today.
We met @Estonian Police border guard, spoke to refugees from Ukraine seeking safety and saw Estonia’s border infrastructure develop.
—Ross Allen (@rceallen) October 4, 2022
Estonia has been a destination and transit country for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war since February. Thousands of people crossed the country’s eastern border, having no choice but to cross first through occupied Ukrainian territory, then through Russia, to reach Europe.