Britain has resolved to send a clear message to much-maligned Russian president Vladimir Putin by deploying 35 troops to the Ukraine.
The move is sure to cause shock-waves in Ukraine, with news of the deployment of military trainers and “gifting” of non-lethal military equipment coming on the same day Putin annexed 3,800 square kilometres of South Ossetia. The territory, officially recognised as being part of Georgia, the Black Sea state and former Soviet nation has been seized exactly a year after the Russian annexation of the Crimea.
The British group of 35 troops will be training Ukrainian troops fighting to recapture territory that has pledged allegiance to either the breakaway regions or Russia itself. The deployment could eventually grow to as many as 75 soldiers. The Evening Standard newspaper reported the comments of a Ministry of Defence spokesman, who said of the move: “The UK is committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s aggression.
“The gifting of non-lethal equipment is designed to prevent further Ukrainian fatalities and casualties and to help improve situational awareness on the ground.
“Our overall aim is to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need”.
This is not the first ‘message’ the British army has been tasked with delivering in recent months. Last November, British troops and tanks found themselves unusually far east as they were deployed to Poland for exercise Black Eagle. Simulating the invasion of a fictional, friendly Eastern European nation by conventional Russian forces, 100 British armoured vehicles, including main battle tanks cooperated with Polish forces in a live firing exercise.
Russia kicked off drills of its own Wednesday in the Western military district, the Europe-facing command which takes up 40 percent of all Russian military strength, with 500 tanks exercising near the Volga. In all, the district has some 2,800 battle tanks at its disposal.