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Estonians join paramilitary forces to face Russia fears

Fear of neighbouring Russia is leading many Estonians to volunteer as paramilitaries, giving up weekends for trainingA machine guns rattles as pale and exhausted teams of Estonian weekend warriors struggle to climb a final obstacle: the wall of Narva Castle facing their country’s powerful neighbour Russia. The bullets fired on the snowy banks of the Narva river separating Estonia from Russia are blanks, but the steely determination of volunteers participating in Utria Assault, the NATO member’s biggest annual military competition, is palpable. Ruth Maadla, a waitress who spends her weekends as a paramilitary volunteer, told AFP she would give her all to help defend the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million people “if anything ever happened”.

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