Estonia pledges border assistance to Latvia

Estonia has pledged border guard personnel to assist fellow European Union member states Poland and Latvia, amid strong pressure at Belarus' western border following large numbers of migrants who have been corralled there by Alexander Lukashenko's security forces, reports ERR News.

Estonian Defense minister Kalle Laanet and Interior minister Kristian Jaani made the announcement at a press conference Thursday, saying that both countries had requested the aid.

Laanet said that: "Initially Poland said that it did not require anything other than political support, but on Monday it also asked us for practical help."

Jaani, whose ministry oversees the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), said that Latvia has also asked Estonia for support.

He said: "Latvians have asked for help so that we are ready to send a 30-member police team to Latvia within 48 hours. We have answered in the affirmative."

Estonia has already been sending PPA units to Lithuania on a monthly rotational basis since the crisis began in mid-summer, with the current deployment there numbering 17.

The additional 30 personnel would be further help, Jaani said.

Though Estonia does not have a border with Belarus, Latvia borders both Belarus and Estonia, and small numbers of migrants entering Estonia illegally, apparently making their way to Finland, have been apprehended since late summer.

Laanet said that there was scope for Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) reservists to also be sent to Poland, purely on a voluntary basis and on the basis of remuneration from Poland.

The precise content and nature of the aid is to be hammered out Friday morning, Laanet said.

"We will send people, equipment and everything needed to protect the EU's external borders," he added.  

The Estonian government has also called up close to 1,700 EDF reservists, to be mobilized on home soil and to erect temporary border barriers on Estonia's southeastern frontier – the only part of the border which is on dry land, the rest being covered by waterways, primarily Peipsi järv and the Narva river.

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