Ukrainian snipers trained by Estonian Defense League this winter

A sniper during a training exercise.
A sniper during a training exercise. Source: ERR

This winter, the Estonian Defense League (Kaitseliit) conducted a number of training sessions for Ukrainian snipers. Estonia also provided the Ukrainians with weapons and equipment. As some of the trainees had already seen action on the front line, the learning process was something of a two-way street. The training was organized by the Defense League's northeastern district, which has its own sniper unit.

The training of Ukrainian snipers and marksmen took place in Estonia between January and March. According to a report by ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera," two separate groups of Ukrainians were trained, with each group containing a few dozen trainees.

In general, a marksman shoots at targets up to 500 meters away, while snipers typically operate at ranges of between 600 and 1,200 meters. In addition to the training, Estonia has also provided Ukraine with weapons, the calibers of which range from 7.62mm to 12.7mm , as well as other military equipment.

"We have given them very specific precision rifles and sniper rifles. They themselves had been improvising using the Kalashnikov as a basis. Previously, they didn't have any serious specialized weaponry," said Lt. Col. Jaanus Ainsalu, commander of the Defense League's Northeastern land district.

Donating weapons to Ukraine will not leave the Estonian Defense League's snipers and precision shooters  short however, Ainsalu said. "This donation does not affect our own capabilities. Everything (we need) is available. These weapons have been transferred, over" said Ainsalu.

Defense League snipers also bought their own weapons and equipment. The kit for one sniper, which includes their gun, optics, binoculars and more can cost somewhere in the tens of thousands of euros, said Ainsalu.

Among the Ukrainians involved in the training, were a number of soldiers, who have already fought on the frontline. Their recent combat experience has therefore provided valuable lessons for the Estonian trainers.  

"Well, for example, deception is very important. You can't stay in one position for too long. The enemy will immediately attack it using long-range fire," Ainsalu said.

"The trainees are extremely satisfied. We are in touch with them all the time. We can share in their battle victories. Unfortunately, we also have to admit that one of the men who completed the training fell today. The others are alive and in good health. They have been actively involved the war and are doing really well," Ainsalu added.

Ukraine has sent a list of the types of training it needs most urgently to defense ministries of a number of its allies. Ukrainian snipers have also been trained by Germany, for instance.

Peeter Kuimet, head of the Estonian Ministry of Defense's International Cooperation Department, said, that both Ukraine's mobilized reservists and conscripts have undergone training in Estonia since the fall.

"In addition to this, we have also provided medical training, and the Defense League has trained (Ukrainian) snipers and marksmen. We have also given them some training in cyber security," Kuimet said.

The Estonian Ministry of Defense previously said, that Estonia has provided a total of €400 million in military aid to Ukraine since Russia's full-scale military invasion began last February. Part of this will amount will be reimbursed via the European Peace Facility.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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