'They Trained Us Really Good': British SAS Troops Reportedly Instructing Ukrainian Local Forces
05:45 GMT 16.04.2022 (Updated: 15:18 GMT 28.05.2023)
As Russian forces and Donbass militias continue advancing amid the special operation in Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed more military aid for Kiev’s troops, saying it would include sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank missiles and high-grade military equipment worth around £100 million ($130 million).
Troops from the Special Air Service (SAS) unit of the British Army have been training local forces in Kiev for the first time since the conflict in Ukraine, reported The Times.
Serving British special forces have carried out military training exercises with two battalions stationed in and around Kiev, Ukrainian commanders are cited as saying. One of the battalions purportedly received training last week, while the other one - the week before.
While former British soldiers, marines and special forces commandos have been working as training contractors and volunteers in Ukraine, this is the first report of such instruction being offered by serving UK forces.
© AP Photo / Efrem LukatskyUkrainian soldiers atop an APC watch training exercises under the supervision of British instructors on the military base outside Zhitomir, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015
Ukrainian soldiers atop an APC watch training exercises under the supervision of British instructors on the military base outside Zhitomir, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015
© AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky
The military trainers had arrived to teach Ukraine’s recruits how to use UK-supplied next-generation light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs), according to Captain Yuriy Myronenko, from a battalion believed to be stationed in Obolon, on the northern outskirts of Kiev.
The NLAWs had been part of a batch of weapons supplies from the UK sent in February, soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of the special operation to demiltarise and de-Nazify the neighboring country.
The difficult decision, Putin underscored at the time, had followed an appeal for assistance from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) amid ceaseless attacks from Kiev forces targeting the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass.
While the Russian Defence Ministry (MoD) underscored that Moscow had no plans to occupy the country, with the operation exclusively targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure, Washington and its NATO allies, including the UK, have been targeting Moscow with sweeping sanctions while continuing to supply weaponry to Kiev authorities.
© Photo : Russian Ministry of DefencePeople's Militia trooper handling a captured Javelin missile system.
People's Militia trooper handling a captured Javelin missile system.
© Photo : Russian Ministry of Defence
Britain has sent NLAW and Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as Starstreak anti-air missiles to Ukraine. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also promised a new package of aid to include sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank missiles and high-grade military equipment, worth an estimated £100 million ($130 million). The batch includes more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles and precision munitions, as well as helmets, night vision, and body armor.
‘Trained Us Really Good’
A Ukrainian special forces commander who used his military nickname, “Skiff”, was quoted by The Times as saying that the 112th battalion, to which his unit was attached, underwent training last week, with his senior commander, going by the nickname “Bear”, allegedly confirming this account.
“They were good guys, the Brits… They have invited us to visit them when the war is over,” added “Bear”.
British military trainers had originally been sent to Ukraine after Crimea became a part of Russia in a referendum held in March 2014. At the time, nearly 96% of Crimeans voted to rejoin the country. Kiev, however, claimed that Crimea was Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, with this stance readily echoed by the US and many Western countries. Moscow has repeatedly stated that the decision made by the Crimean people was conducted in full compliance with international law and the UN Charter.
The afore-mentioned British units were withdrawn this February to avoid any direct conflict with Russian forces carrying out their special operation in Ukraine and the possibility of NATO being drawn into the conflagration.
Despite the fact that the UK Ministry of Defence refused to confirm the Ukrainian commanders’ accounts, the cited Ukrainian officers insisted their military training throughout April had been conducted by serving British soldiers.
3 April 2022, 09:58 GMT
This report comes as James Heappey, the UK’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, said this week that Ukrainian troops were due to arrive in Britain next week for armoured vehicle training.
Heappey told LBC on 12 April that a contingent of Ukrainian troops will be shown how to drive and command British-supplied armoured vehicles on UK soil.
“We are getting as much to the Ukrainian MoD as we can… 120 armoured vehicles are in the process of being made ready and the Ukrainian troops that will operate those will arrive in the UK in the next few days to learn how to drive and command those vehicles,” said the Armed forces minister, adding:
“There’s more anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons systems we’re sending. There are precision guided weapons.”
Resumption of training for Ukraine’s new recruits and returning veterans who had signed up when the current conflict erupted is critical, Captain Yuriy Myronenko was cited by The Times as saying. He underscored that the new arrivals to Ukrainian forces had no experience with the anti-tank missiles sent by Britain.
“We have received huge military help from Britain. But the people who knew how to use NLAWs were in other places, so we had to go on YouTube to teach ourselves. You can learn in seven minutes, five to seven minutes. After that we had good training. British officers were here two weeks ago in our unit and they trained us really good. And because we have had successes, we have self-confidence now,” he stated.
After last month Moscow announced that it had completed the first phase of its operation and would concentrate on liberating the eastern Donbass region, western countries announced they were sending additional weapons packages to prop up the Kiev forces.
The United States announced this week that it was intending to supply $800 million in new weaponry to Ukraine, including Humvee armoured vehicles, 300 Switchblades, 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 200 M113 armoured vehicles as well as 16 Mi-17s helicopters, along with other sophisticated military equipment.
Furthermore, the Pentagon would be resuming training by American troops, which, however, would not be conducted on Ukrainian territory.
In response, Moscow has sent a note to Washington warning that NATO arms supplies to Kiev are only exacerbating the Ukrainian conflict and can lead to “unpredictable consequences,” the Washington Post reported on Friday.
“We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,” the note, originally in Russian and seen by the newspaper, read.
Russia has repeatedly stated that western states are directly involved in the current developments as they continue to pump Ukraine with weapons and ammunitions, “inciting further bloodshed."