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Starmer in Estonia to meet Nato troops

The visit comes after the British Army said a small number of soldiers have gone absent without leave and may have travelled to Ukraine.

10 March 2022

Sir Keir Starmer is set to meet Nato troops in Estonia amid news from the British Army that a small number of soldiers have disobeyed orders and travelled to Ukraine.

Estonia’s defence minister, Kalle Laanet, presented the Labour leader with a ceremonial plate at the Ministry of Defence building in Tallinn on Thursday morning to mark the start of his visit.

Sir Keir is being accompanied by shadow defence secretary John Healey in the snow-blanketed Eastern European country, which shares a 183-mile (294km) border with Russia.

Keir Starmer visit to Estonia
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow defence secretary John Healey meet Estonian defence minister Kalle Laanet at the Ministry of Defence in Tallinn (Victoria Jones/PA)

Their trip marks day 15 of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Sir Keir spoke with Mr Laanet in private for around 30 minutes before setting off for the Tapa military base.

The Labour politicians are later due to meet Colonel Dai Bevan, Commander of the Nato Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, before having lunch with troops and speaking with MPs at the Estonian parliament.

While travelling from the defence ministry building to the Tapa base, Sir Keir said he “stands steadfast in solidarity with Ukraine”.

He said on Twitter: “Today, @JohnHealey_MP and I are in Estonia, to meet with our allies and British troops.

“Labour stands steadfast in solidarity with Ukraine, and we are committed to supporting our Nato allies.”

It comes after the British Army said a small number of soldiers have “disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave” and may have travelled to Ukraine “in a personal capacity”.

There is no suggestion these soldiers were from the Tapa base.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has warned that soldiers could be prosecuted for desertion if they have travelled to Ukraine to fight against the Russian army.

In Ukraine, Mr Putin’s forces have seized areas in the south and east of the country, including the city of Mariupol.

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