The current Commander, Major General Meelis Kiili, will hand over the Defence League flag to Minister of Defence Jüri Luik. The Minister will entrust the Defence League flag to Colonel Riho Ühtegi, the new commander of the volunteer national defence organisation.
According to Minister of Defence Jüri Luik, the position of Commander of the Defence League requires thorough knowledge of national defence, long-term service experience and the ability to think strategically. ‘Being the leader of a military organisation relying on free will requires a bit more from its officers than commanding a traditional military unit,’ he said.
Luik noted that Major General Meelis Kiili has done an excellent job, and is convinced that Colonel Riho Ühtegi will assume command, continuing to develop the Defence League consistently, fairly and professionally.
‘Colonel Ühtegi's diverse experience as Commander of the Defence Forces Special Operations Force provides a strong prerequisite for the Defence League to be taken seriously and to be commanded and developed at a high level,’ said Luik. He added that it was under Ühtegi’s command that the military capability of Estonia’s special operations was established and developed, which is highly regarded both at home and abroad.
Riho Ühtegi is one of the founding members of the Tartu County Defence League District, where he also began his career as an officer in 1991.
Colonel Ühtegi has served as the Commander of the Defence Forces Special Operations Force since 2012. It was under his command that the military capability of Estonia’s special operations was established and developed, which is highly regarded both at home and abroad.
During his service, Colonel Ühtegi has been the Chief of Intelligence Department of the EDF HQ and Land Forces, an instructor at the Estonian Military Academy and the Commander of the Military Intelligence Battalion. He has participated in foreign operations in Afghanistan and served as the Military Attaché in Georgia.
In addition to his official assignments, Riho Ühtegi trains national defence instructors at Tallinn University and contributes to the development of tactics for the small units within the Defence League.
Riho Ühtegi is a graduate of the University of Tartu School of Law, and the Colonels course at the Baltic Defence College.
‘I am proud and thankful that I am able to assume command of such a unique and broad based organisation such as the Defence League. General Kiili is leaving me an organisation which has taken a significant step forward in its development, ensuring that our country is better protected than ever before. I thank him very much for that,’ said Colonel Ühtegi.
‘Unfortunately, the field of military affairs is one that is constantly changing, and which has, over time, acquired new dimensions and principles of conduct. Effective national defence, however, means being ready to respond to threats. Therefore, the development of the Defence League must also continue in a direction which allows for the efficient use of the potential of volunteers in times of crisis and war. Taking command of the Defence League from General Kiili, I wish to focus in particular on the continued development of territorial defence, which should be both efficient in standing against a conventional attack as well as hybrid threats,’ he added.
After seven years of successful service in this position, Major General Meelis Kiili, the current Commander of the Defence Forces, will be heading to foreign service.
In accordance with the Estonian Defence League Act, the Defence League is led by the Commander of the Defence League, who is subordinate to the Commander of the Defence Forces. The Commander of the Defence League shall be appointed to and released from the post by the Government of the Republic on the joint proposal of the Minister of Defence and the Commander of the Defence Forces, after hearing the opinion of the Council of Elders.
Colonel Riho Ühtegi will assume the post on 19 July.
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