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Defence secretary commits extra British troops to Ukraine

An army column of military vehicles prepares to roll to a frontline near Illovaisk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine earlier this year. Picture by Evgeniy Maloletka, Associated Press
Dan O'Donoghue

Britain will commit further Royal Marine commandos and a naval attache to Ukraine in a bid to bolster defences against Russia, the defence secretary has announced.

The extra troops will provide combat training to the Ukrainian military and help build the country's naval capabilities.

Ukraine has been embroiled in conflict since the Maidan Revolution in 2014 which led to separatists, backed by regular Russian military units, seizing Crimea and a large swathe of Ukrainian territory along the border.

Gavin Williamson announced the extra support while visiting the front line, where he told his Ukrainian counterparts the UK "supported the people of Ukraine and is firmly committed to its sovereignty".

Mr Williamson told the Daily Telegraph: "The Kremlin is trying to undermine our values, destroy our way of life, and reverse the outcome of the Cold War. Its behaviour only increases the risk of miscalculation and the prospect of crisis turning to chaos.

"We want to be able to ensure that the people who are on the front line, where we are today, have the best ability to survive and defend their homeland."

The training, delivered through Operation Orbital, has been expanded in 2018 to include anti-armour, infantry skills, counter-sniping and mortar planning.

This is in addition to the defensive skills programmes such as the identification of mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), medical care and logistics that UK personnel have been delivering since early 2015.

British personnel have trained more than 9,500 of the Ukrainian armed forces since the start of Operation Orbital in 2015.

The coming year will see a continuing growth in joint training activity with Canada as well as initiatives between UK personnel and other nations who have also committed to supporting Ukraine.

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