EDF reservist pioneers close to completing Poland border work

The EDF pioneers wading through a Polish river while installing razor wire.
The EDF pioneers wading through a Polish river while installing razor wire. Source: EDF

Close to 70 Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) reservists will soon be returning home after spending much of this month in Poland, tasked with installing razor wire on that country's border with Belarus, and also in deploying surveillance drones, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Saturday night.

The EDF members, reservists with the scouts battalion (Scoutspataljon), arrived in Poland early on this month and were sent in response to migratory pressure exerted on Poland's border with Belarus, from the Belarusian side.

Around three weeks later and the EDF pioneer unit will soon have installed 25 km of razor wire on previously un-cordoned sections of the border - the main focus of the operation, dubbed Wisent (named after the European Bison, found in small enclaves in the wild on both sides of the border - ed.).

The EDF unit's commander, Lt. Col. Mikk Pukk, told AK that: "A little over a kilometer of work has been done every day, and we have now reached about 18 kilometer-mark," adding that they had been given a "very high" rating by Poland's armed forces over the work.

A drone team which formed part of the unit has conducted several observation flights, while a camera surveillance team has been involved with over 30 operations, Lt. Col. Pukk said.

One section of border was on a stretch of river, which meant that the EDF personnel had to don wetsuits and wade into the cold water in depths up to chest-level to install the razor wire.

"There are no problems, there are only solutions," one EDF reservist told Ak.

The filmed footage has been handed over to Poland's defense ministry.

Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, expressed his thanks to the EDF team, while Christmas eve – the main time of celebration in both countries – saw a meal held featuring both local and Estonian dishes.

The EDF personnel will be back in Estonia before the new year, AK reported.

The unit was sent after significant numbers of migrants, trafficked from some middle-eastern nations, primarily Iraq, had been corralled on the border by the security forces of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a strategy replicated on that country's borders with Lithuania and Latvia since mid-summer.

While Estonia does not share a border with Belarus, fears over a new migrant route being opened up via the western Russian city of Pskov prompted the annual reservist snap exercise Okas to concentrate on installing razor wire and other material on Estonia's eastern border with Russia, particularly in the southeast.

The EDF pioneers came almost directly from Okas, in late November, to Poland, at the beginning of December.

British Army personnel have also been deployed to Poland during the operation.

The bulk of the EDF's manpower is based on a conscription model which sees soldiers remain on reserve lists after completing their conscript service of eight or 11 months, depending on the speciality. The reservists are liable for call-up on exercise, including with Okas ("quill"), an annual event which takes place late on each year. The EDF is augmented by the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), recruited regionally and many of whose members have also been on missions outside of Estonia, including to Iraq.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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