The commander of the Estonian army, Maj. Gen. Johannes Kert, and the Defense Ministry’s chancellor (second only to the minister), Toomas Kitsing, resigned from their posts yesterday, one day after it was announced that Defense Minister Andrus Oovel would do the same. (See Monitor, September 17) The resignations follow the accidental drowning of 14 Estonian soldiers during a seashore exercise on September 11. The tragedy has triggered a scandal in both the political and the military spheres. On September 15-16, moreover, 18 soldiers of an elite unit in southern Estonia went AWOL for more than 24 hours, apparently to a drinking party. And yesterday it was announced that three soldiers from the Estonian Peacekeeping Platoon ESTPLA-4, including the platoon commander, were sent home "for disciplinary problems." They were serving in Bosnia with a Danish battalion under NATO command.
The Defense Ministry and the army command have publicly traded accusations over these incidents and over the apparent failure of communication between senior civilian officials and military officers. Kert has served in his post for approximately one year, Oovel since 1995. Kert’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Alexander Einseln, had become embroiled in a debilitating conflict with Oovel last year.
(BNS, September 17)
Udovenko Elected UNGA President; Ukraine Seeks Permanent Seat on UN Security Council.