Col. Riho Ühtegi has been nominated new Defence League (Kaitseliit) commander, by head of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) chief Maj. Gen. Martin Herem.
Col. Ühtegi is currently head of the EDF's Special Operations Command, and his candidacy is set to be discussed by Defence League's governing board in the coming days. The current incumbent, Maj. Gen. Meelis Kiili, is to take up a post at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the summer.
The Defence League commander is appointed by the government, at the joint proposal of Minister of Defense, currently Jüri Luik (Isamaa), and head of the EDF, as noted currently Maj. Gen. Herem.
Col. Ühtegi joined the Defence League in 1990, before the restoration of Estonia's independence. From 1991 to 1993, he was a platoon commander with the Estonian police forces in Tartu County, and, together with Tartu County's Defence League members, was involved in the defensive operation at Toompea during the August 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt.
The 1991 operation aimed to hinder armed Soviet Units' attempts to take over the Estonian parliament and government buildings, concurrent with the Aug. 19-21 failed attempt by hardliners to wrest control of the whole of the Soviet Union from Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 1993, Ühtegi was appointed commander of a unit that had previously engaged in insubordination; he subsequently served in military intelligence for over 10 years, participating twice in NATO operations in Afghanistan and working as a defense attaché in Georgia.
From 2012, he led the establishment of the EDF's Special Operations Command, later becoming its commander.
The Defence League is a volunteer force under the defense ministry's command, and is armed and engages in military training, augmenting the EDF and enhancing readiness in national defense and constitutional order. It also operates in a civilian context, including fighting wildfires, engaging in policing duties and ensuring safety at various events.
Editor: Andrew Whyte