British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defence Minister Andriy Taran aboard HMS PRINCE OF WALES in Portsmouth on 7 October.
The visit came as Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS DRAGON sails in the Black Sea in support of freedom of navigation. A port visit to Odesa will enable interactions with Ukrainian counterparts and showcase the UK-led Maritime Training Initiative.
The officials took part in a roundtable with representatives from the British defence industry in which they explored how the UK could better support Ukraine in strengthening its navy. The Defence Secretary and his counterpart then signed a Memorandum of Intent, in which both countries asserted they would continue to work together on developing Ukraine’s naval capabilities.
“Defence is at the heart of the UK’s special partnership with Ukraine. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Ukraine twice in the past year, where I expanded our commitment to supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Now I am delighted to be able to welcome President Zelenskyy and Defence Minister Taran to explore how we can strengthen that relationship even further,” Wallace commented.
In August, during a visit to Ukraine, the Defence Secretary announced that the UK will lead a multinational Maritime Training Initiative for the Ukrainian Navy, boosting its ability to combat threats in the Black Sea. Ukraine lost much of its naval capability during Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and has since continued to face a rising number of threats in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. In response, Ukraine has been building its navy to protect its economic interests and its right to freedom of navigation – an effort that Britain is supporting.
Since the UK’s training mission to Ukraine – Operation Orbital – began in 2015, British troops have trained over 18,000 members of the Ukrainian armed forces. Their efforts have made a real difference and saved lives as Ukraine faces down Russian aggression and threats to its sovereignty. Last year the Defence Secretary extended Operation Orbital until 2023. The UK’s efforts are complemented by US security assistance support. This will further enhance Ukraine’s capabilities and situational awareness in the maritime domain to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression. The UK continues to urge all allies and partners to enhance their support for Ukraine.