The Estonian government appointed Col. Riho Ühtegi commander of the volunteer Estonian Defence League (Kaitseliit) on Thursday, replacing Maj. Gen. Meelis Kiili. Prior his appointment, Ühtegi had been in charge of special operations at the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) since 2012.
The appointment followed a recommendation by both Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa) and Commander of the EDF Maj. Gen. Martin Herem. According to Luik, the commander of the Kaitseliit needs to have thorough professional knowledge and long-term service experience, and to be familiar with the volunteer Kaitseliit.
“Being the leader of a volunteer military organization perhaps requires a bit more from its officers than commanding a traditional military unit,” Luik was quoted in a ministry press release on Thursday. “Maj. Gen. Meelis Kiili has done an excellent job, and I’m convinced that Col. Riho Ühtegi will assume command and continue to develop the Kaitseliit consistently, fairly, and professionally.”
More than being familiar with the Kaitseliit, Ühtegi is actually one of its founding members, and he began his career as an officer there in 1991. He has served as chief of the EDF’s intelligence staff, an instructor at the Estonian Military Academy, and commander of the Military Intelligence Battalion.
In 2012, he was appointed commander of the then-brand new EDF Special Operations Force, and went on to develop it into a highly regarded unit, the ministry wrote. Assignments abroad include the Estonian contribution to NATO operations in Afghanistan as well as a stint as the Estonian defense attaché in Georgia.
Ühtegi will assume command of the Kaitseliit on 19 July.