Long-running Ussisõnad reservist exercise nears its conclusion

Participants in Exercise Ussisõnad in Tartu.
Participants in Exercise Ussisõnad in Tartu. Source: ERR

A large-scale military exercise involving reservists and volunteers is drawing to a close in South Estonia this weekend, after more than a month.

The final phase of the exercise, dubbed Ussisõnad ("Snakish"), is taking place in the Southern Territorial Defense District's area through to Sunday.

The exercise worked through each of the four nationwide districts in turn, which pertain to national defense via a light infantry force – compared with the regular Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) heavy infantry role – which marries closer EDF reservists and the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit).

The rationale is that it is easier for EDF reservists, former conscripts who remain liable for annual service, to turn to their local Defense League Defense District (Malev), not to mention the advantages of defending the terrain one is most familiar with – a lesson drawn from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This includes actions in an urban and suburban area.

Much of the Ussisõnad rehearsals had up to now been fairly concealed, but from Friday through to Sunday, as happened in Tallinn a few weeks ago, participants will be more visible on exercise on the streets of Tartu.

Meelis Sõukand, commander of the 3rd company, told AK that: "Militarily speaking, the scenario is that two days left until the start a the conflict, so the civil rule situation is still valid in the city, yet there is anxiety along the borders, while the enemy has started to initiate activities which could disrupt the functioning of that civilian life."

One of the potential targets was the central rail station in Tartu, another, the local airfield, still other, ERR's own offices on Riia street.

"ERR would be imperiled as the enemy may try to disrupt its information continuity or otherwise prevent the creation of an accurate information picture for the populace," he went on.

"Our potential opponents here are not an enemy with armor and tanks, but either special forces units or some sort of resistance movement coordinated by same, as a fifth column operating among us, and against the Estonian state," Sõukand went on.

The Southern Defense District had never until now conducted an exercise in this format.

Lt Col. Raul Kütt, head of the Defense League's Southern Defense District, told AK that: "We have reached the point where we need to practice these primary tasks and do it in the most realistic way possible, and in places where this is as close to reality as possible, for example, as here at the airport. /.../ In this case, an airport security task is involved, and here we have taken all measures so that the enemy's forces would not be able to easily land at Tartu Airport and use it as a bridgehead to bring in their own troops."

Meelis Soukand also praised the attitude of local residents

Tartuvians should note that Ussisõnad participants will be on exercise on the roads ringing Tartu city limits through Saturday, and at other locations in the city and in Tartu County, as well as Põlva and Võru counties, over the weekend.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Ode Maria Punamäe.

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