US troops will remain in Estonia as long as Estonia wants them to, said Lieutenant General Frederick Ben Hodges, US Army Commander, Allied Land Command, during his recent visit to Estonia.”I’m very proud of the soldiers who have come here to train together with Estonian soldiers, and these rotations, and the team work with the US army continues as long as Estonia wants it to,” said Hodges, adding that it is part of the security that was promised at the Wales summit and part of deterrence against Russian aggression. Hodges said at a press conference at the US Embassy in Tallinn that the rotation of US forces in Europe is not something that is occuring in response to Russia’s actions, but it is a way how the US Army operates after the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. “Rotational forces are not created in response to the annexation of Crimea, this is how the Army is moving towards the future,” said Hodges.
This November the Harju County court convicted five former employees of Estonia’s foreign intelligence agency, the Information Board, for embezzling state property and four also for revealing state secrets.
The convicts embezzled over 600,000 euros worth of property that did not belong to them. The crimes were committed in 2002-2014. State Prosecutor Inna Ombler said that the persons were employees of one unit, who due to their position had the possibility of using Information Board’s money and property. The money was meant to cover costs of collecting information but the convicts used it for personal expenses. The state secrets the convicts revealed were documents and data carriers connected to Information Board’s work.
The UNESCO intangible cultural heritage committee decided in its session in Paris to include the smoke sauna customs of the South East Estonian Vorumaa region in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Postimees Online reports. “The vitality of the Estonian culture is manifested particularly genuinely in spiritual heritage, which is transferred from generation to generation. Including the Voro people’s smoke sauna customs in the UNESCO Representative List supports continuation of the tradition and brings international attention to it,” said the Minister of Culture Urve Tiidus.
The smoke sauna tradition is an important part of everyday life in the Voro community of Estonia. It comprises a rich set of traditions including the actual bathing customs, the skills of making bath whisks, building and repairing saunas, and smoking meat in the sauna.