Off-duty NATO soldiers based at Tapa have once again been at the center of allegations of poor behavior, news portal Delfi reports.
This time, the allegations involve French soldiers, part of the British-led Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup, who one witness told Delfi (link in Estonian) were drunk while on board an Elron train destined for Tartu, which departed Tallinn at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. The soldiers themselves were headed for Tapa, one of the stops on the route, after having received a permit to go off base, Delfi writes (link in Estonian).
Several soldiers were barely able to stand, while some vomited, both in the train's toilets and in the aisle, the witness said.
Elron spokesperson Katrin Kulderknup confirmed the incident, adding that military police personnel were waiting for the soldiers at Tapa station, while another witness said that Tuesday's incident was not the first of its kind.
The witness told Delfi that: "For the second Tuesday in a row, young French servicemen have been dead drunk on board a Tallinn-Tartu. The icing on the cake was one young soldier who vomited down the aisle while running, which the remainder of the company went to clean up. The boys were evidently overwhelmed by their town leave, and four of them were sleeping."
The French contingent's press spokesperson said that to their knowledge only one of the soldiers had had too much to drink and behaved inappropriately, while the soldier's commanding officer has been informed and disciplinary action has been taken against him and the individual responsible for the group as a whole.
The spokesperson did not say how many soldiers the group totaled, though stressed the incident had been an isolated one, which did not reflect the overall behavior of French soldiers based in Estonia.
Katrin Kulderknup of Elron said that incidents of this kind should be reported to [email protected]
While reports of this kind run the risk of playing into the hands of the Russian propaganda machine, in this case this could be offset against traditionally warm relations between France and Russia.
In May this year, a group of British soldiers, also based at Tapa, were filmed in a scuffle which also involved local residents and required the intervention of the military police – based just a few hundred meters away at the base, whereas local Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) personnel may have had to travel from Rakvere, a 25-minute drive away. The soldiers' home unit has finished its deployment in Estonia and been replaced by the Royal Tank Regiment, the senior tank regiment worldwide.
Editor: Andrew Whyte