Estonia has pledged border guard personnel to assist European Union member states Poland and Latvia, amid strong pressure on Belarus' western border following large numbers of migrants who have been corralled there by Alexander Lukashenko's security forces.
Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) and interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) made the announcement at a press conference Thursday, saying that both countries had requested the aid.
Laanet said that: "Initially Poland said that it did not require anything other than political support, but on Monday it also asked us for practical help."
Jaani, whose ministry oversees the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), said that Latvia has also asked Estonia for support.
He said: "Latvians have asked for help so that we are ready to send a 30-member police team to Latvia within 48 hours. We have answered in the affirmative," said Jaani.
Estonia has already been sending PPA units to Lithuania on a monthly rotational basis since the crisis began in mid-summer, with the current deployment there numbering 17.
The additional 30 personnel would be further help, Jaani said.
Defense minister: EDF reservists could possibly also be sent south
Latvia borders with both Belarus and Estonia, and small numbers of migrants entering Estonia illegally, apparently making their way to Finland, have been apprehended since late summer.
Laanet said that there was scope for Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) reservists to also be sent to Poland, purely on a voluntary basis and on the basis of remuneration from Poland.
The precise content and nature of the aid is to be hammered out Friday morning, Laanet said.
"We will send people, equipment and everything needed to protect the EU's external borders," he added.
While the stream of migrants, mostly from Iraq as well as from some other middle-eastern, near-eastern, asian and North African states, began in the summer, in recent days there has been a surge in the numbers present on the Belarus border, while Polish police have clashed with people trying to force their way over the border and have resorted to the use of tear gas and water cannon.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Wednesday that Lukashenko must work to head off a humanitarian agency, and called for UN agencies to be allowed to work in the country. Kallas also spoke with President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen on the issue, while foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets has called for the sanctioning of Minsk Airport and Belarusian national carrier Belavia, at EU level (Estonia has already imposed its own bar on Belavia and other Belarusian flights entering Estonian airspace).
The government has also called up close to 1,700 EDF reservists, to be mobilized on home soil and to erect temporary border barriers on Estonia's southeastern frontier – the only part of the border which is on dry land, the rest being covered by waterways, primarily Peipsi järv and the Narva river.
Editor: Andrew Whyte