VLADIMIR Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be the end of his tyrannical regime, an Estonian colonel training just 80 miles from the border with Russia has insisted.
Colonel Andrus Merilo slammed the Russian army as “corrupt” and lacking “the will” to fight.
7Colonel Andrus Merilo is the commander of Estonian forces in the Nato war gamesCredit: Ian Whittaker7Nato forces are conducting exercises so they can be ready for actionCredit: Ian Whittaker7British tanks rumble through the snowfields as part of the drillsCredit: Ian WhittakerThe top soldier was speaking to our reporter embedded on Nato winter war games in Eastern Estonia as he said there is “no alternative” except for victory for Ukraine.
The icy exercises are an annual drill – but have taken on a chilling new importance since Putin attacked Ukraine almost a year ago on February 24.
And 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 “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.
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.
The colonel, from the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade, said his forces have been learning from observing the Russians in Ukraine.
He slammed Putin’s forces performance – and praised the valour of the Ukrainians.
Cradling his R20 Rahe assault rifle, Colonel Murilo explained: “I didn’t expect the Russians to conduct the war so poorly.
“Fortunately for us, there is too much corruption in the Russian army, and a lot of money has been stolen.
“Ukraine has been successfully fighting Russia for one year, but now is the time they desperately need more support and weapons systems.”
He added: “The Ukrainians are much better soldiers than the Russians.
“They have a much stronger will to fight, they are defending their country and their families.
“The Russians don’t have this will. It is a small miracle what the Ukrainians are doing.”
But he was clear the next two months will be decisive.
It is a small miracle what the Ukrainians are doingColonel Andrus Merilo
“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,” the soldier added.
“What we need is more readiness and communication towards the Russians that Nato is more than capable of holding them off.”
Colonel Meriol said Estonia has been aware of a possible attack by Russia since they first gained independence in 1991.
And he said they are ready for “any incursion” from the East.
He went on: “We have predicted Russia would invade Ukraine for some time.
“NATO forces are extremely capable. In terms of technical ability, we are very superior to Russia.”
The forces are 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.
7Tanks covered in camouflage roll through the snowCredit: Ian Whittaker7Estonian soldiers carrying out trench warfare training in the ciy conditionsCredit: Ian Whittaker7British Royal Engineers atop a tank during the exerciseCredit: Ian WhittakerOn 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 Russia feared to be making against the backdrop of a possible new offensive being launched to mark the first anniversary of the invasion.
But this is not weighing on Colonel Merilo’s mind – he is focusing on making sure his men are in top shape as they work alongside the Brits, French and Danes.
He said: “We don’t care about those kind of anniversaries.
“We are learning from the experiences in Ukraine, but we are improving our ability to operate in such snowy conditions.”
The colonel went on: “Estonian Defence is based on the understanding if we go to war, we go to war as a nation.
“We cannot afford to put together a huge army.
“If needed without any notice, we can put together an army of more than 26,000 troops to defend Estonia.”
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.
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.
7Nato forces are carrying out joint drills in Eastern Estonia – pictured are the commanders including Colonel Merilo (3rd from right)Credit: Ian Whittaker
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk