Close to eight hundred people took part in this year's Victory Day (Võidupüha) parade in the central Estonian town of Paide, ERR reports. President Kersti Kaljulaid gave her traditional speech, which focused on the country's defense forces in their entirety, while chief of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), Brigadier General Riho Ühtegi, also gave a speech, as did Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).
Coronavirus restrictions have largely been lifted in Estonia and outdoor events are capped at 1,000 participants – 200 more than took part in Wednesday in Paide. The bulk of the participants were on parade and came from the Defense League and their women's (Naiskodukaitse), girls' (Kodutütred) and boys' (Noored Kotkad) sister units, primarily from the northeast district.
British and French NATO personnel from the Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup based at Tapa also took part, while fly-pasts from Britain's Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force's aerobatic display team, and jets from Estonia's Air Force (Õhuvägi) and from the air forces of Italy and Spain, based at Ämari and Šiauliai, Lithuania, respectively, were also due to take part.
NATO hardware was also on display, including the two heavy tanks based in the country at present – the U.K.'s Challenger 2 and the French Leclerc – while drummers and musicians from the U.K.'s 1st Battalion, The Mercian Regiment Corps of Drums also appeared.
The Police and Border Guard (PPA), the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) and the prison service were also on parade, while the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) military band provided the marching tunes, with participants coming from Pärnu County, Tallinn and Jõgeva.
A church service took place in the morning and was attended by the prime minister, Kaja Kallas, and the speaker of the Riigikogu, Jüri Ratas (see gallery below).
The president noted in her speech that the day's events could go ahead relatively as per normal after last year's scaled-down event, the result of the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying restrictions, and also focused on the need for continued defense development, as well as the relationship between the Defense League and the regular EDF, which she said was a unique set-up, globally speaking.
Readers inside Estonia can catch the rewatch of the parade from ERR's Jupiter streaming site here.
The prime minister noted in her speech the crucial importance of the struggle for freedom even in free countries like Estonia, while Brig. Gen. Ühtegi stressed the continuity between freedom fighters at the Battle of Cesis - the event marked on Victory Day - 102 years ago, and the present day defense forces.
The president also distributed victory torches, to be conveyed to all 15 of Estonia's counties and which members of the public can utilize to light their own torches, with a view to carrying the flame to home-based midsummer fires, the traditional way of marking Jaanipäev.
Defense minister Kalle Laanet also noted the significance of the day, tweeting that on this date in 1919, Estonian troops won a decisive victory in the Battle of Võnnu (Võnnu is the Estonian name for Cesis, the Latvian town which was the scene of the confrontation).
Today we celebrate Victory Day as on 23 June in 1919 troops won a decisive battle of Võnnu in our Independence War. Although the fight for independence continued this #victory marks an event that led to the freedom of . pic.twitter.com/uLts0LmrBs— MoD Estonia (@MoD_Estonia) June 23, 2021
Editor: Andrew Whyte