Ukraine must defeat Putin or every Nato country is at risk from Russia, warns top soldier on Brit war games | The Sun
UKRAINE must defeat Vladimir Putin or every Nato country could face the wrath of Russia, a top soldier has warned.
Estonian colonel Andrus Merilo issued the chilling message as he spoke on the sidelines of Nato war games just 80 miles from Russia.
The icy exercises are an annual event – but have taken on a sinister new importance since Putin attacked Ukraine almost a year ago on February 24.
With the spectre of the conflict hanging over them, the soldiers from Britain, Estonia, France, and Denmark are all united and dutifully carrying out their drills.
Speaking to The Sun Online as his forces carried out intense trench warfare exercises, Colonel Merilo described the herculean effort by the Ukrainians against Putin as a "small miracle".
Russia is just a stone's throw away from the training ground, and the Estonian troops are constantly aware of the possible threat posed by an increasingly belligerent Putin.
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Colonel Merilo said the next two months will be decisive as the Ukraine war rumbles on.
He told The Sun Online: "Ukraine has to win this war, there is no alternative, or any NATO nation is at risk.
"It is now very clear that Russia is a threat to its neighbours.
"What we need is more readiness and communication towards the Russians that Nato is more than capable of holding them off."
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Speaking directly about Putin, Colonel Merilo simply described Vlad's war as a "massive miscalculation".
"It will be the end of his regime," he said.
Estonian defence minister Hanno Pevkur warned it's "vital" that Ukraine succeeds in its fight against Putin.
Speaking to The Sun Online, he said: "My message to Putin is to go out from Ukraine. It is not his land.
"Ukrainians are not just fighting their own land, they are fighting for the free world, for international law, for all of us.
"It is vital that they succeed."
He went on: "The Ukrainians have shown courage. They are fighting for their own country, their own families, so their motivation is 200 times that of their invaders.
"We see the predictions that Ukraine's defence last wasn't right, they will do what they can to defend their country."
Ukrainians are not just fighting their own land, they are fighting for the free world
The minister praised the relationship his nation has with Nato – and especially with the UK – in the face of the threat from Russia.
He said while they "can't choose" who their neighbour is – they can make sure they are prepared for anything, including being ready to fight at very short notice.
He warned Russia would face an army that would be ready for action in just two hours if they ever attacked Estonia.
"We have been prepared for the possibility of an invasion for some time," Pevkur explained.
"Obviously, we will do everything we can to protect ourselves, together with our allies.
"This is why we said some time ago, 'Never Alone Again'.
"This is why we are in Nato and the EU. We all believe and trust that the Nato umbrella is working quickly."
Pevkur went on: "We are very quick. We have trained a lot. We have our reserve army so that we can defend ourselves.
"Building up our division means we will have more readiness. Last week we carried out snap exercises where we can be ready in just two hours.
"In 24 hours we could have considerable numbers of troops ready."
He explained the biggest challenge facing them – is simply one of space, with Ukraine being twice the size of Estonia.
"We don't have the luxury to give even one metre, so we will start fighting from the first metre," Pevkur said.
Estonian forces alongside their Nato allies carrying out exercises called WINTER CAMP 23 as they drill to work on the readiness of Nato’s Forward Presence Battlegroup.
Temperatures in Keskpolügoon, or the Central Training Area, are expected to drop to around -12C as they carry out the war games this week.
On the vast military base, about the size of 15,000 football pitches – the troops from all nations are being put through their paces.
The war continues to rumble on in Ukraine, with fears of a possible new Russian offensive being launched to mark the first anniversary of the invasion.
Pevkur said the annual exercises are "very important" – and hailed Estonia's relationship with the UK.
He said: "UK has been one of Estonia's biggest allies, you are the lead country for us. This relationship is extremely important.
"Even when you go back 100 years, Brits were here when we had our first war of independence."
And he laid out how his nation's military is tooling up in the face of threat from Russia, getting their hands on new missiles, guns, armoured vehicles and plenty of ammo.
"Last year, we acquired two times more ammunition than we did in the past 30 years," he told The Sun Online.
"Estonia has been prepared [since] before the Russian invasion of Ukraine."
Nato nations have been providing Ukraine with weapons and armour to defend their country against the Russians.
But many in Kyiv fear it is not enough – especially with reports as many as 500,000 Russian soldiers could be preparing for a spring offensive.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned the war is going to get more challenging – and has continues to urge the West to help him arm his troops.
Putin has managed to turn Russia into a pariah state since the start of the war – with his list of allies dwindling.
And his future is believed to be tied to the war's success or failure.
Putin has been warned he could face an internal uprising unless he manages to achieve something in Ukraine.
He had foolishly expected to steamroller Ukraine and for his soldiers to be welcomed as "liberators" – but they have faced a fierce fightback.
Cities initially seized by the Russians were then retaken by the Ukrainians.
But after a near stalemate over the winter, its believed Vlad may be preparing a hammer blow to try to win the war – and save his own skin.
The fiercest of the fighting is currently focused on the city of Bakhmut.
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It is devolving into the bloodiest battle of the war so far with a life expectancy of soldiers on the frontline reportedly being just being just four hours.
With the first anniversary of the war fast approaching, the next few months could make or break both the conflict and the future of the international order on the world's stage.
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