British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced on 4 November that the UK will extend its current training mission to Ukraine by three years, until March 2023.
The mission, designated Operation Orbital, was established following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, demonstrating unwavering British support for Ukraine. UK personnel have now trained over 17,500 members of the Ukrainian armed forces since the start of the mission in 2015.
In September, Mr Wallace travelled to the east of the country, where he visited the frontline and met with Ukrainian military commanders. “My recent visit to the Donbas region made clear not only the costs inflicted by Russian-backed separatists, but also the resolve the Ukrainian armed forces have demonstrated in defending their territorial integrity […] That is why we are extending our training mission to Ukraine for another three years – so we may train thousands more Ukrainian personnel and continue to make a difference,” he commented.
He also underlined support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in meetings with his newly appointed counterpart, Andriy Zagorodniuk.
Mr Wallace travelled to Mariupol, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, where he witnessed first-hand the effects of the five-year conflict in the Donbas region and received a briefing on the situation from Joint Force Operation Commander Lt-Gen Volodymyr Kravchenko and on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov from Adm Ihor Voronchenko. He also met with British personnel delivering vital military training.
Last year the UK enlarged the scope of Operation Orbital by deploying training teams from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines to deliver training to the Ukrainian Navy, which faces increasing threats in the Sea of Azov.
During his meeting with Ukrainian defence minister Zagorodniuk, Mr Wallace also reaffirmed the importance of UK-Ukraine trade – as discussed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in August.