Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces of the UK James Heappey has confirmed that the British military will train Ukrainian soldiers on British soil. An unspecified number of soldiers are expected to arrive within the “next few days” to learn how to operate armoured vehicles that Britain has pledged to supply to Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.
“There are 120 armoured vehicles that are in the process of being made ready,” Heappey told LBC Radio, “And the Ukrainian troops that will operate them will arrive in the UK in the next few days to learn how to drive and command those vehicles.”
London pledged the new arms delivery to the Ukrainian authorities last week amid the surprise visit of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Kyiv. He met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy while touring the capital and pledging further “financial and military aid, which is a testament of our commitment to [the] country’s struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign,” Johnson said.
Apart from the 120 armoured vehicles, the package includes Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, 800 NLAW anti-tank missiles, and “high-tech loitering munitions,” also known as ‘suicide drones’.
The consignment also has anti-ship missiles, Heappey confirmed on Tuesday in a separate interview with BBC. “There are more shoulder-launched anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles that we are sending as well as loitering precision munitions, and as you heard the prime minister say at the weekend, we’re also sending an anti-ship capability as well,” he said.
The UK has been among the most ardent supporters of the Ukrainian authorities in their standoff with Russia, with the two countries enjoying strong military ties long before the ongoing conflict broke out. The British have already sent more than 4,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and awarded Kyiv a massive £ 1.7 billion ($ 2.2 billion) loan package in 2021 to boost its naval capabilities while rallying its allies to ramp up their military aid to Ukraine.
Britain has already trained many Ukrainian soldiers, running the so-called Operation Orbital since 2014. Some 22,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been trained under the project, but it was suspended in February in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine, a country with a large population that shares the attacker’s ethnicity, following Kyiv’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014 and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbas republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The Minsk Protocol was brokered by Germany and France. It was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Ukraine insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.