Estonia Deploys Nearly 1,700 Reserve Units, Installs Barrier Along Russian Border

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
November 17, 2021Europe
Estonia Deploys Nearly 1,700 Reserve Units, Installs Barrier Along Russian Border
People walk on the bridge over Narva river at the border crossing point with Russia in Narva, Estonia, on Feb. 16, 2017. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Estonian authorities deployed more than 1,600 reserve military units in an unannounced exercise that is scheduled to start on Wednesday as the illegal immigration crisis in nearby Belarus intensifies.

In a statement issued by the government on Nov. 17, the forces summoned include 1,636 reservists from different units, who are mainly engineers that will be strengthening border infrastructure from Nov. 17 until Nov. 25.

“The main purpose of exercise OKAS/QUILL is to test the national defense chain of command, from the Estonian Government decision down to the particular units’ combat readiness in the rapid response structure,” the statement reads.

The reserve engineers will also work on installing a temporary barrier in border areas that have “previously been used by organized crime to facilitate illegal migration,” officials said.

The Estonian police and border guard said in a statement obtained by news agency Reuters that 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) of razor-wire fence will be installed along the Russian border, where risks of illegal crossings are the highest.

“What is happening in Poland, Lithuania. and Latvia also requires the strengthening of the border infrastructure in Estonia,” said Chief of Police and Border Guard Elmar Vaher.

Kalle Laanet, the country’s minister of defense, said last week during a news conference the border crisis could lead to a military clash, saying “the potential for escalation is extremely high.”

Other European Union neighbors of Belarus, including Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, have already installed additional border infrastructure and deployed thousands of military forces. Poland also declared a state of emergency over the border situation last month.

NTD Photo
Armed Polish border guards stand at the Polish-Belarusian border in Usnarz Gorny, near Bialystok, northeast Poland, on Aug. 20, 2021. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expressed concern about the escalating crisis on the EU borders with Belarus, while offering support to Poland.

EU ambassadors also agreed last week that the growing numbers of illegal immigrants flying to Belarus to reach the EU border amount to “hybrid warfare” by Belarus’ leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka—which serves as a basis for a new round of sanctions on Minsk.

The new round of sanctions is set to target Belarusian officials that the EU says have organized arrivals of the migrants in revenge for sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.

Belarus has repeatedly denied any such operations and rejects all Western accusations of wrongdoing, saying it, not the EU, is a “victim” of a “hybrid attack” using unconventional warfare tactics.

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