In his first visit to Ukraine as Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson announced an extension of the military training operation there for a further two years, until 2020.
Mr Williamson met with Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak and General of the Army Victor Muzhenko, to discuss the threats faced by Ukrainian Armed Forces. He also announced the expansion of the UK Defence Section in Kyiv and the introduction of a permanent Naval Attaché to help build Ukrainian naval capability.
The Defence Secretary also met President Poroshenko, reaffirming the UK’s commitment to Ukraine. He also discussed Russian security forces continuing to disrupt merchant vessels trying to access Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, imposing negative effects on Ukraine’s economy.
He also travelled to Marinka in the Donbas region, to see at first hand the effects of the four-year conflict, and received an operational update from the Joint Force Operation Commander Lt.-Gen. Serhiy Nayev. The visit to Marinka highlighted the severity of the ongoing conflict, including its humanitarian and environmental impacts, driven by Russian aggression.
“By extending and expanding our training programmes, we are sending a clear message - we support the people of Ukraine and are firmly committed to its sovereignty as it faces down blatant Russian aggression,” Mr Williamson commented.
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 over 9,500 members of the Ukrainian armed forces since the start of Operation Orbital: the coming year will see a continuing growth in joint training activity, in collaboration with Canada, as well as initiatives between UK personnel and other nations who have also committed themselves to supporting Ukraine.