UK troops to be sent to Ukraine

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Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Up to 75 British troops and military staff will be sent to Ukraine next month to advise and train government forces, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced.

The UK servicemen and women will be based well away from the areas of conflict in the east of the country and offer support with medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry training. There has been no decision to move to supplying lethal weaponry to the Kiev government.

The deployment was announced last night as Mr Cameron warned of “deeply damaging” consequences for the whole of Europe if the EU failed to stand up to Russian president Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

If he was not reined in, Mr Putin could target the Baltic states or Moldova next, creating instability which would have a “dreadful” impact on the UK economy, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons Liaison Committee.

Setting out details of the new UK military mission, Mr Cameron said: “We are not at the stage of supplying lethal equipment. We have announced a whole series of non-lethal equipment, night-vision goggles, body armour, which we have already said that we will give to Ukraine.

“Over the course of the next month we are going to be deploying British service personnel to provide advice and a range of training, from tactical intelligence to logistics to medical care, which is something else they have asked for.

“We will also be developing an infantry training programme with Ukraine to improve the durability of their forces. This will involve a number of British service personnel. They will be away from the area of conflict but I think this is the sort of thing we should be helping with.”

Mr Cameron vowed that Britain would be “the strongest pole in the tent” arguing for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine failed to observe the ceasefire agreement reached in Minsk on February 12. It would be “miraculous” if the terms of the agreement were met in full, he said.

Further destabilisation should be met by sanctions “materially different” from the asset freezes and travel bans imposed so far, perhaps involving Russia’s exclusion from the Swift international banking payments system, said the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron said he had not ruled out “forever” supplying lethal equipment, but told MPs: “We’ve had National Security Council discussions, we’ve had very clear decisions that we should be in the space of providing non-lethal support … We don’t believe, fundamentally, there is some military solution to this issue.”

Mr Cameron also indicated he was ready to give the BBC more funding to provide news services to counter “the deluge of Russian-paid and backed media spreading disinformation” in the region.

He acknowledged that it would be “difficult” to achieve unanimity on the continuation of EU sanctions when they came up for renewal in July, but added that “the horrors of Debaltseve” should show Europe “who we are dealing with and how firm we need to be”.

Foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, meeting in Paris, failed to reach agreement over the withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides from the front line, which was promised in the Minsk accord.

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin said there was progress on some “technical aspects” but no agreement on apportioning blame for the sporadic violence which has continued following the ceasefire deal, particularly around the strategic railway town of Debaltseve.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council yesterday that recent days had seen “systematic” breaches of the Minsk accord, and said the UK will work to ensure that sanctions on Russia remain in place until Moscow demonstrates a clear commitment to the principles of dialogue, peace and security.

Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said: “In light of the ongoing situation in Ukraine, it is vital that the international community stands ready to increase pressure on Russia by extending economic sanctions if President Putin refuses to change course.

“While we welcome this non-lethal support package to build the capacity of Ukrainian forces, further clarity is required as to whether this support is being offered within the Nato framework and questions must be answered as to the scale and timetable of deployments.”

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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