Presidents of Russia, Estonia meet after nearly a decade

MOSCOW (AP) — The presidents of Russia and Estonia held talks at the Kremlin for the first time in nearly a decade Thursday, a step toward reversing an absence of high-level contacts that Russian President Vladimir Putin described as “not a normal situation.”

In his opening remarks, Putin told Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid their neighboring countries have a lot of concerns in common, including environmental issues surrounding the Baltic Sea and security.

Kaljulaid said after the meeting that despite Estonia observing European Union sanctions on Russia, the two countries could make progress on bilateral issues such as developing transportation infrastructure and taxation.

Estonia, which borders Russia’s northwest and is home to a large Russian-speaking minority population, was spooked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal.

Estonia has since hosted scores of NATO military drills that were aimed at deterring potential Russian aggression.

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