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Ex-British Army soldier suing UK defense ministry over Estonian cold

Recent winter scene on the Estonian coast.
Recent winter scene on the Estonian coast. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A British ex-serviceman is suing the defense ministry in that country for £860,000 (over €1 million) by way of compensation he is claiming over a severe speech impediment he says the cold winter in Estonia has left him with, British paper the Daily Mail reports.

The former sapper, Chileshe Mwamba, was deployed in Tapa in 2017 with the U.K.-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup which, the Daily Mail says on its website, was set up to deter Russian aggression in the Balkans [sic].

The paper said that Mwamba, now 31, from Derby, England, was subject to extreme cold while serving with the Royal Engineers at Tapa, conditions which left him with a "non-freezing cold injury", a stutter which his lawyers say renders him barely intelligible, and lasting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Mwamba, originally a guardsman in the Household Division prior to joining the Royal Engineers, is suing the U.K.'s ministry of defense through the High Court, citing the negative effects on loss of potential future earnings, his employability and on his personal life.

The ministry has accepted liability for the "non-freezing injury", the Daily Mail reports, but does not accept the extent of his disabilities and demands that he prove the full extent of his injury and losses at the trial, set for 2022.

The original Daily Mail piece is here.

The eFP was established after the 2016 Warsaw Summit, issued in response to the 2014 annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and the ongoing insurgency war in eastern Ukraine which started in the same year.

It became fact in early 2017 in Estonia, and sees British, French and Danish units serving on a rotational basis at Tapa, with headquarters in Tallinn.

Mirrored by two other eFPs in the other two Baltic States (nowhere near the Balkans) and in Poland, the mission is wholly separate from the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission based out of Ämari.

The winter of 2017-2018 in Estonia was mild by the standards of the region, with a three-month mean (December to February) of -2.4C compared with the norm of -3.3C, the state weather service (Riigi ilmateenistus) reports.

Current temperatures in Tapa, around 80km east of Tallinn, are at the time of writing -17 to -16C, and were as low as -24C overnight, during the cold snap affecting the whole country at present.

PTSD is a putative behavioral disorder, also now applied to civilians when arising from traumatic non-combat situations, while the term itself was coined during the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. It described a phenomenon long known about and previously referred to as "seeing the elephant" (American Civil War), "shellshock" (World War One) and "the (two) thousand-yard stare" (World War Two/Korean War).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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