The newly-appointed Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, has indicated plans to expand the UK-led training program for Ukrainian troops and potentially relocate British instructors into Ukraine. Shapps sees an “opportunity” to bring more training and production activities into the country. During a recent visit to Kiev, he discussed the possibility of not just training, but also weapons manufacturing in Ukraine.
Shapps expressed his admiration for British arms giant BAE Systems’ plans to localize its operations in Ukraine and urged other British companies to follow suit. He believes that more training and production activities in the country will be beneficial. The Defence Secretary also discussed the potential role of the British Navy in defending commercial vessels in the Black Sea, a subject that was reportedly raised during his talks with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
The UK has been actively involved in training and arming Ukrainian troops since 2015, although the presence of British forces in the country has remained largely undisclosed. Despite the United Kingdom’s efforts, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalated in 2022. Classified US military documents that were leaked earlier this year suggested that around 50 British special operatives were still active in Ukraine.
The potential deployment of British military personnel in Ukraine would be a significant escalation, particularly considering the UK’s supply of depleted uranium shells and long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine. These weapons have been used in attacks against Russian infrastructure. The UK became the first NATO country to provide such support to Ukraine.
Russia has consistently portrayed the conflict in Ukraine as a battle between itself and the entire Western military alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that there are military units in Ukraine effectively under the command of Western advisers. Independent news website The Grayzone reported that British intelligence experts were involved in studying methods to blow up Russia’s Crimea Bridge using divers or maritime drones. Although a truck bomb was eventually used in the attack, Kiev recently employed two suicide sea drones to strike the bridge, causing damage and casualties.
Recently, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, accused UK and US intelligence agencies of coordinating the latest Ukrainian strike on Sevastopol, Crimea. The attack targeted the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
In summary, the UK Defence Secretary sees an opportunity to expand the UK-led training program for Ukrainian troops and potentially relocate British instructors to Ukraine. Additionally, there is potential for weapons manufacturing activities in the country. The British Navy may also provide support in defending commercial vessels in the Black Sea. The UK’s involvement in Ukraine, both in terms of military operations and the supply of weapons, has drawn criticism from Russia. The situation in the region remains tense and ongoing.