NATO Secretary General in Tallinn to mark Estonian Independence Day
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg joined the Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas, other senior Estonian officials, as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Tallinn today, Friday (24 February 2023), to mark Estonian Independence Day.
Early in the morning, Mr Stoltenberg attended the flag-hoisting ceremony at the Governor’s Garden of Toompea Castle, then laid a wreath at the War of Independence Victory Column in Freedom Square. Participants observed a minute’s silence to commemorate one year from the launch of Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine. The Secretary General also attended a military parade of Estonian Defence Forces, which includes troops from the UK-led NATO multinational battlegroup in Tapa, Estonia, and Ukrainian troops training in Estonia. On Thursday, he also met President Alar Karis.
At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Kallas and President von der Leyen, the Secretary General said, “Over a hundred years ago, Estonian troops fought bravely for their freedom and independence. Your history is a strong reminder that we cannot take freedom for granted. Today, it is the Ukrainian people who are bravely fighting for their freedom. And despite a dark year of despair and destruction, their determination and courage will no doubt prevail.” He added, “One year ago, President Putin launched his full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, an illegal war of aggression, in blatant breach of basic international rules. He wanted to break the will of the Ukrainian people and he wanted to break our unity. President Putin failed. Ukraine stands. And NATO and the European Union stand with Ukraine.”
Praising Estonia’s staunch support for Ukraine, Mr Stoltenberg said, “Estonia is leading by example, providing more military aid as a share of GDP than any other country in the world.”
The Secretary General stressed that NATO’s presence protects the space for Allies to provide support for Ukraine. He recalled that since 2014, NATO has significantly reinforced its presence from the Black to the Baltic Sea, including in Estonia. “All this sends a clear message to Moscow – NATO will protect and defend Estonia, and every inch of Allied territory,” Mr Stoltenberg said, stressing that “our article 5 commitment is ironclad – all for one, and one for all.”