Boris Johnson has revealed that dozens of Ukrainian soldiers are training in the UK. Johnson confirmed Ukrainians were training on vehicles being donated to Kyiv by London during his two-day trip to India, where he also announced a defense arms pact with New Delhi.
This is the first time the British government has confirmed the Ukrainian military is training locally.
A small number of Ukrainian troops are reportedly involved in training at an unnamed military base in England. Britain is also training Ukrainian troops in Poland.
“We are moving, in conjunction with our allies, to provide new types of equipment that perhaps the Ukrainians wouldn’t have had previous experience of, so it’s only sensible that they get the requisite training to make the best use of it,” the prime minister’s spokesperson told reporters.
Britain pledged to donate 120 armored vehicles to Ukraine during a visit by the prime minister to Kyiv earlier this month. Britain has trained the Ukrainian military since 2015, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
Britain has trained about 22,000 Ukrainian personnel on several skills, including logistics, countering improvised explosive devices, and infantry tactics, in a program known as Operation Orbital. A smaller training effort has been underway since 2010.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian generals and officials led by Deputy Defence Minister Volodymyr Havrylov visited the Salisbury Plain training ground to view weapons being supplied by Britain.
Ukrainian personnel in the U.K. are undergoing dual training on tracked combat reconnaissance vehicles and wheeled protective mobility vehicles. The former vehicle type includes the decades-old Samaritan ambulance, Sultan command vehicle, and Samson recovery vehicle.
The Mastiff, Husky, and Wolfhound protected mobility vehicles are a much more recent purchase, with the British Army acquiring them for counter-IED operations in Afghanistan.
The Guardian newspaper reported that 80 of the vehicles would be protected mobility types, with the remaining 40 being the tracked combat reconnaissance vehicles.
Details of the vehicle types heading to Ukraine follows news earlier this week that tracked Stormer vehicles — also part of the CVR(T) family — armed with the Thales-developed UK StarStreak short-range air defense missile are also heading to the country to boost forces battling the Russian invasion, which began February 24.
The vehicle donation is the latest in a growing list of weapons Britain has dispatched to Ukraine. Previous deliveries include NLAW and Javelin anti-tank missiles as well as loitering munitions.
At a news conference in India on Friday, Johnson proposed Britain could step up its efforts to further support Ukraine by providing main battle tanks to Poland so it can then send its Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Kyiv. “We are looking more at what we can do to backfill in countries such as Poland, who may want to send heavier weaponry to help defend the Ukrainians,” Johnson said.
It’s unclear whether Poland has made a request for the British Army’s aging Challenger 2 tanks. Poland recently ordered 250 Abrams tanks from the United States.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to update Parliament next week with more details of the British effort to support Ukraine’s military.