The Eastern European country bracing itself for invasion by Vladimir Putin

Estonian militia leaders have said they believe it is only a matter of time before Vladimir Putin launches a full-scale invasion of their country.

And in a clear illustration of rising tensions, French soldiers have been deployed in the Baltic nation to help train voluteers from the Estonian Defense League (EDL).

Estonia, which is a member of NATO, shares a 180-mile border with Russia and has been living in the shadow of Moscow ever since it declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The country, with a population of just 1.3 million, has an estimated 4,000 active personnel and 37,000 reservists – but the EDL has 43,000 volunteers nationwide.

Lieutenant Kristjan Kaup, the EDL’s local chief of staff, speaking to Politico during military exercises on the island of Saaremaa, said: “Russia wants to increase its power. In my opinion, there will be a next invasion. In our community, we don’t ask what if, we ask when.

Don’t miss… ‘Relieved’ Cameron spared brutal grilling by Brexiteers as Rwanda vote looms[LATEST]

France has rotating troops through Estonia for six years in accordance with NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, which has a joint tactical sub-group based in Tapa in central Estonia.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron upped the number of troops deployed to the Lynx mission to 300. They operate alongside soldiers from the US and the UK, which leads the NATO battlegroup.

Commander Arto Reimma, who was born on the island, said: “Many things have begun in Saaremaa during the two world wars. We keep that in mind. We have to be ready to defend ourselves and are very pleased that our allies are here to support us.”

Don’t miss…
Putin’s bulging muscles and invasion of USA feature in bizarre 2024 calendar[LATEST]
WW3 fears erupt as expert warns Putin could push UK to deploy nuclear weapons[REVEAL]
US unveils $100bn monster missile 20 times the size of Hiroshima bomb[INSIGHT]

After Russia’s invasion, French President Emmanuel Macron boosted the so-called Lynx mission to 300 soldiers. They operate alongside troops from the US and the UK, which leads the NATO battlegroup in the country.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ponzoni, France’s senior national representative in the region, said: “The partnership is going well. French armies are settling in over the long term in Eastern European countries.

“It was completely unknown territory for everyone, for all countries, not just France. All our troops will need to be seasoned. That’s what would happen if there was a conflict: We would come.”

Estonia has also seen a recent surge in number of migrants attempting to enter the country through a crossing point in the border city of Narva. Roughly 30 migrants, mostly Somalis and Syrians, have been turned back to Russia in the past seven days after they didn’t seek asylum in Estonia.

  • Support fearless journalism
  • Read The Daily Express online, advert free
  • Get super-fast page loading

Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur, speaking during a news conference after a meeting with Nordic and Baltic counterparts last month, said: “This is fully state orchestrated (by Russia). Fully.

“In Russia, there’s a border zone up to 10 kilometers (about six miles) that you cannot enter without the permission of the FSB. And so by accident, all these hundreds of migrants are ending up in one border crossing point in Finland with bicycles during the wintertime. Come on, seriously?”

Speaking in Brussels this week, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba warned: “The next country that Russia may attack will be a European country, it will not be somewhere else. So Europe has to be more self confident in its capacity to defend itself.

“If one side blinks it will be a very bad moment for that side. And it’s not us who has to blink, we have to make Russia blink.”

Source: Read Full Article