Prince Harry pays tribute to Estonia's soldiers during visit

Prince Harry meeting crowds in Estonia The prince is on a two-day visit to Estonia

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Prince Harry has paid tribute to the "professionalism and bravery" of Estonian troops during the first day of his visit to the Baltic state.

He paid his respects to soldiers who died fighting for the country by laying a wreath at a national monument in Tallinn's Freedom Square.

During a speech Prince Harry later said the UK and Estonia are "firm friends".

The serving Army officer said he had been "privileged" to serve alongside Estonian troops while in Afghanistan.

Crowds of people, many waving union jacks, earlier watched as Prince Harry laid a wreath alongside two Estonian servicemen.

A handwritten note attached to the wreath read: "In memory of all those who gave their lives for their country - Harry".

"Your armed forces have built a formidable reputation through their professionalism and bravery in the most testing conditions," he told guests during a reception at Estonia's parliament building.

Prince Harry laying a wreath The prince laid a wreath in Estonia's Freedom Square
Prince Harry's hand written note His wreath was accompanied by a hand-written note from the prince

Addressing the guests, which included injured troops, he said: "You get the job done with minimal fuss and I love that."

Analysis

Prince Harry's trip to Estonia is being seen as a sign of Western support amid fears of a resurgent Russia.

He has visited Estonia's monument to national independence and met Estonian soldiers injured in the Nato mission in Afghanistan.

The expectation from the Estonian government is clear: that Nato should now reciprocate by protecting the Baltics if needed.

So the prince's visit to the largest Nato exercises ever to be held in Estonia is significant.

Some in the West fear a military build-up on Russia's border could provoke Moscow.

But for people in the Baltics a strong military presence here is an essential deterrent and Prince Harry's visit a signal that the West has not forgotten them.

Estonia first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2006, and during Prince Harry's last deployment there, he worked with forces from the Baltic state.

The prince served a 20-week deployment in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot, ending in January 2013.

His first tour of Afghanistan - as a forward air controller on the front line - was cut short in 2008 after 10 weeks because a media blackout was broken.

"As a nation, we are extremely grateful for your support and for the sacrifice Estonia has made alongside us in recent operations. It is something which we will never forget," the prince said.

"Our countries are firm friends but this friendship continues to grow even stronger, through our shared experiences and goals."

The prince, who it later emerged had flown to Tallinn on an Easyjet flight, is due to meet President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, on the second day of his visit to the country.

He will also watch the largest Nato military exercises ever to be held in Estonia before he is then expected to travel to Italy for the final part of his four-day tour.

Prince Harry posing for a photograph Crowds gathered to see the prince in the Estonian capital, Tallinn
Prince Harry greets wellwishers
Prince Harry meeting crowds in Estonia

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