FACT CHECK | Estonia has not sent soldiers to Ukraine – it’s Russian propaganda

Estonian social media users are sharing a spreadsheet from the Russian Ministry of Defence on the number of „mercenaries“ sent to Ukraine from different countries. These are lies by the aggressor state. Estonia has not sent any soldiers to Ukraine.„190 sent from Estonia and 85 of them killed,“ a Facebook user wrote about the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet contains a list of different countries and numbers that should indicate how many „mercenaries“ each country has sent to Ukraine and how many have died. „It is in someone’s interest to kill the best sons of the whole world instead of making peace,“ the user says.The post was made on March 15 and has so far (as of March 25) over 50 shares and more than 60 reactions.Facts Estonia has not sent soldiers to Ukraine. If Estonian citizens are fighting in Ukraine, they have gone there voluntarily.There is no such term as „mercenaries“ in Estonian defence legislation. It is possible to join the Defence Forces and thereby take part in missions, but there is no Defence Forces mission in Ukraine.It is not known exactly how many Estonian volunteers have gone to fight in Ukraine. Two Estonian citizens are known to have died on the Ukrainian front.The spreadsheet shown in the post comes from the Russian Ministry of Defence’s Telegram channel, where the Russian authorities posted it on 14 March. The content of the original post indicates that it is Russia’s data on foreign „mercenaries“ in Ukraine.Andra Nõlvak, a spokeswoman for the Estonian Ministry of Defence, confirmed that it is a hoax. „There are no mercenaries in Estonia at all and Estonia has not sent anyone to Ukraine,“ she refuted the claims in the post. It is possible to work professionally for the Estonian Defence Forces, but even that would not explain the claims in the post. It is possible to take part in foreign missions while working in the Defence Forces, but there is no foreign mission in Ukraine. In other words, there are no Estonian soldiers in Ukraine who are on the payroll.This does not mean that no Estonian citizens are fighting in Ukraine. After the Russian invasion, many Estonian citizens joined the war voluntarily, both in Ukraine’s rans and as part of the Russian forces. The exact number of those who joined is not known. In the November “Pealtnägija” TV story, 15 men linked from Estonia were identified by name on the Ukrainian side, but the actual number may be higher. According to the Ministry of Defence, two Estonian citizens have died on the Ukrainian front.Foreign volunteers who want to help Ukraine on the frontline are serving in the International Legion. It is not known how many people and from how many countries have joined the legion to date, but in spring 2022 Ukrainian officials said that more than 20 000 people from more than 50 countries had joined the force. Russian propaganda about “mercenaries” sent by foreign countries has long been spread in other countries. French officials, for example, have also refuted such allegations. “France has no “mercenaries” in Ukraine or elsewhere,” a French foreign ministry spokesman told AFP, calling the claim “another clumsy Russian manipulation”.However, it is known that the Russian army uses mercenaries. For example, the so-called Wagner PMC, which fought for a long time in the war in Ukraine, used foreign mercenaries, mainly from Africa and Asia. At a briefing by the Ukrainian Media Centre on March 15, citizens of foreign countries (notably Nepal, Cuba, Sierra Leone and Somalia) told how they were paid to go to fight in Ukraine on Russia’s side.Verdict: false. There are no “mercenaries” in Estonia, and Estonia has not sent any Estonians to fight in Ukraine. All Estonian citizens who have gone to war in Ukraine have done so voluntarily. The figures circulating on social media come from the Russian Ministry of Defence and are part of aggressor state propaganda.