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Gallery: First French soldiers arrive in Estonia

The first French soldiers arrived in Estonia on Monday. March 20, 2017.
The first French soldiers arrived in Estonia on Monday. March 20, 2017. Source: (Ardi Hallismaa)

The first French troops to begin serving in the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia landed at Ämari Air Base on Monday afternoon.

"We are here to demonstrate that France is contributing to the cooperation between NATO allies and to serve together with our allies from Estonia and the U.K.," said Col. Michel de Mesmay, commander of the French contingent.

De Mesmay added that French soldiers have previous positive cooperation experience with Estonians both in the Central African Republic as well as from an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia.

The first 51 French troops of the NATO battle group to be stationed in Tapa arrived in Estonia on Monday. France will be contributing a total of 300 soldiers to the contingent and will serve in the battle group for the next eight months, following which they will be replaced by Danish soldiers.

The NATO battle group will consist of a total of nearly 1,200 allied soldiers. The French unit will be bringing with it equipment including Leclerc tanks and VBCI infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) as well as VAB armored personnel carriers.

Last July, the leaders of 28 NATO member states decided at the Warsaw Summit to station battalion-sized allied battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in response to a changed security environment. The battle group to be stationed in Estonia will be led by the U.K. with support from France and Denmark.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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