Estonia sending almost 100 Defense Forces members to Poland

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Reservists constructing a temporary border in Estonia during snap exercise Okas in November 2021.
Reservists constructing a temporary border in Estonia during snap exercise Okas in November 2021. Source:

Estonia will send almost 100 members of the Defense Forces to help Poland with its migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, Defense Minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) on Friday.

Laanet said Estonia received Poland's request for practical assistance on Monday evening. 

"In the past, they wanted just political support, but now they need practical help. As far as I know, only Britain has provided practical assistance to Poland so far," Laanet said at a press conference on Friday morning.

The Defense Forces will send troops including reservists from the Engineers, Military Police, Reconnaissance units and combat camera teams to Poland.

Estonia is also assisting Poland in enhancing its intelligence capabilities and will send drones. 

Personnel tasked with preparations will go to Poland immediately and the rest over the next week, said Major General Veiko-Vello Palm, deputy commander of the Defense Forces.

Laanet said did not specify how many will reservists will be included. 

Estonia has already sent several rotations of personnel to assist Lithuania and will send people to Latvia in the coming weeks.

For the last 10 days, thousands of migrants have been stuck on the Belarusian side of the Belarus-Poland border in freezing temperatures. Some have tried to cross into the EU. Poland has pushed them all back.

Since the summer, migrants have been trying to cross the Belarusian border with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The move has been called a "hybrid attack" by EU leaders.

Asked what the risk is in Poland at the moment, Laanet said, according to the current information, no escalation can be seen and Belarus is moving migrants from one place to another to cause confusion.

On Thursday, Lithuania's State Border Guard Service said Belarusian officers have been pushing migrants into Lithuania, public broadcaster LRT reported.

BBC: UK sending around 150 Royal Engineers to Poland

UK's Minister of Defense Ben Wallace in Tallinn in 2020 Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Personnel from the British Army's Royal Engineers are also being deployed to Poland in response to the crisis, and could potentially aid the three Baltic States as well if needed, U.K. defense minister Ben Wallace said on Friday.

The U.K. will send approximately 150 Royal Engineers.

Wallace, who was visiting British Army personnel in Poland, said: "We are going to be using that part of our forces to help the Poles, and potentially other Baltic states to secure their border."

The engineers are not front-line combat troops, Wallace added, but bring with them road, checkpoint and observation post-building capabilities: "Guys with diggers," as Wallace put it.

A smaller contingent of sappers had already been deployed in the area, he added.

The U.K. is part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) and has had troops in Estonia and Poland since 2017.

Editor's note: This article was updated to include comments by U.K. defense minister Ben Wallace.


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Editor: Helen Wright, Andrew Whyte

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