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President Kaljulaid marks NATO anniversary with 30 km military load carry

Kersti Kaljulaid at Friday's annual Scouts Battalion 30 km load carry
Kersti Kaljulaid at Friday's annual Scouts Battalion 30 km load carry

President Kersti Kaljulaid has marked the 15th anniversary of Estonia's accession to NATO in a particularly robust way, joining the annual Scouts Battalion 30 km load carry, along with members of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), those of allied nations, and others.

Writing on her social media account on Friday, President Kaljulaid noted that: ''Today marks the 15th anniversary of the ratification by the US State Department of our accession to NATO, together with six fellow nations. It is very symbolic that this took place on [former president] Lennart Meri's birthday, as he made a supreme effort to ensure it, thus avoiding the events of 1939 ever happening again''.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which carved up much of central and eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence, with Estonia falling under the latter, was signed in that year. Lennart Meri, Estonian president 1992-2001, lived to see Estonia's NATO accession become reality, and would have celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday.

''It was difficult for me to find a better way to celebrate the anniversary of joining NATO than to participate in the annual Scouts hike with members of our defence forces, allied soldiers and other personnel,'' the president continued.

''Hiking 30 km in central Estonia in spring, whilst carrying a 15 kg load, was not easy, but a time of four hours, 19 minutes, at least for a first attempt, is not a bad time,'' she continued.

To put it into perspective, the EDF allows up to eight hours to complete the course. President Kaljulaid's ''not bad'' time puts her within the requirements for those wishing to pass out as officers with the UK's elite Royal Marines Commandos, who have seven hours to complete a 48 km, course as their final commando test, carrying only a slightly heavier load (around 18 kg).

The hike also marked the 18th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Scouts Battalion, at the EDF's training zone and the adjacent Norh Kõrvemaa nature reserve, about 60 km east of Tallinn.

Representatives from the defence forces and volunteers, the police and border guard board (PPA), the rescue board (Päästeamet) and other state organisations, as well as civilians, are eligible to enter the event, where age, rank and gender are of no significance, according to the EDF's website.

The President is a keen runner, having completed the New York Marathon last November in around four hours, amongst other events.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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