Estonia

The NATO forces exercising on Russia's doorstep

Almost 2,000 British troops are helping Estonia prepare its defence against an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Their deployment is part of Exercise Hedgehog, a giant series of war games just a short drive from the Russian border with fellow NATO nations.

The exercise takes place every four years, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has given the simulated battles an extra edge.

About 15,000 troops in total are exercising as part of the deployment, comprised of military personnel from across NATO.

Within the international makeup of the troops, the Chasseurs Alpins or "Alpine Hunters", France's elite mountain infantry unit, are embedded with the Estonian Defence Force.

Viking Company is also conducting training on the exercise, a specialist mechanised infantry unit from the Royal Danish Army.

First Lieutenant Christopher Eltved told Forces News that his Viking Company troops can "deliver a lot of mass in a short amount of time, getting very close to the enemy".

British troops have been stationed in Estonia since 2017 but have doubled in size since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February. 

Lieutenant Colonel Ru Streatfeild, 1 Royal Welsh Battlegroup Commanding Officer, said that the British presence in Estonia was fundamental to the UK.

He said: "There's always been a razor-like operational focus here in Estonia, but the invasion in Ukraine has given us a renewed sense of purpose.

"Having more troops and more capabilities here gives us more flexibility, so there is a range of options we can respond to."

The exercise is due to end on Thursday 2 June.