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President Karis bestows Estonia's highest military medal on Ukrainian soldiers

Military Order of Merit of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class
Military Order of Merit of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class Source: Raigo Pajula / Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia.

President Alar Karis has awarded Estonia's highest military medal, by way of a corporate recognition of all of Ukraine's soldiers.

The Order of Merit of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class (Kotkaristi teenetemärk, I Klass, pictured) is the highest military honor awarded by Estonia.

Thursday represented the first ever time it has been awarded, to anyone, since Estonia regained its independence over 30 years ago.

President Karis said Thursday that: "This morning I signed off on a decision to award the Military Order of Merit of the Cross of the Eagle, First Class to the soldiers of Ukraine."

"This recognizes the supreme courage shown by everyone who is fighting the enemy that has encroached upon Ukraine in defending their country and the free world," the head of state continued, via a press release.

"Wars are won by soldiers, who thus deserve our utmost respect and gratitude," he went on, noting that this definition covered a broad sweep of men and women.

"Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are currently defending their nation against Russia's aggression. When I say 'Ukrainian soldiers', I mean everyone who is contributing to the defense of that country: The armed forces, special forces units, territorial defense, reservists and volunteers, and those sustaining the military industry. These are all soldiers of Ukraine."

The president went on to express his admiration for the bravery the Ukrainians have shown in standing up to Russia's aggression for the last 10 years.

"Despite the horrors they have witnessed, the loved ones they have lost, the towns and cities whose ruins they have walked in, the homes they have seen burn to the ground and the endless onslaughts they have faced, ordinary Ukrainians remain as willing to defend their nation as ever, and the determination of the country's soldiers to repel these attacks is unwavering," he continued.

At the same time, Russia's attack on Ukraine was also an assault on its allies, the president said.

"In this brutal war, instigated by Russia, we all are allies fighting for freedom on this great battlefield."

"In attacking Ukraine, Russia is attacking all democratic nations: Theirs is an attack on all of us. The war is not something we can become accustomed to, and will not resolve itself. The solution – which is to say the aggressor's withdrawal – demands a joint effort from all democratic nations. Ukraine must be given what its soldiers need to defend their country," President Karis concluded.

President Zelenskyy arrived in Tallinn on Wednesday night having already visited Lithuania. He met with the prime minister and addressed the Riigikogu while in Estonia, in addition to the meeting with the head of state – and gave joint press conferences with President Karis and with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

After leaving Estonia on Thursday afternoon, Zelenskyy headed to Riga, for the final leg of his two-day official visit to the Baltic states.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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