The Ukrainian government praised France’s “determination” for sending military advisors to the country, saying it hoped Paris making the first move would encourage other Western partners to deploy troops too.

A months-long drama over French President Emmanuel Macron’s apparently intractable desire to deploy French soldiers directly to Ukraine appears to be approaching the point of action, as Ukraine reveals it has now legally cleared the way for foreign troops to arrive.

Ukraine’s new Commander in Chief General Oleksandr Syrskyi and the nation’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov had talks with their French counterpart Defence Minister Sebastien Lecorne, they said on Sunday, underlining how they welcomed French troops and appealed to the country for more equipment and ammunition to be donated.

Syrskyi said he welcomed “France’s initiative to send instructors to Ukraine to train Ukrainian military personnel”, and revealed he had “already signed the documents that will allow the first French instructors” to arrive. That first wave of French troops would be visiting Ukrainian training facilities for familiarisation, he said.

Crucially, the Ukrainian stated he hoped, France breaking the Western taboo on ‘boots on the ground’ in Ukraine would encourage other backers to get involved more directly. He said: “I believe that France’s determination will encourage other partners to join this ambitious project.”

The timing is unclear, not least because shortly after the statement, Ukraine’s Defence Ministry appeared to offer a soft clarification, saying: “Starting from February 2024, Ukraine expressed interest in the prospect of receiving foreign instructors in Ukraine. As of now, we are still in discussions with France and other countries on this issue.”

Indeed, Defence Minister Umerov said of his part of the conversation that he’d urged France to send the instructors quickly, implying no concrete timeline had been decided.

On other matters, particularly appealing to France to send more weapons, Umerov said: “Strengthening our combat units is essential to repel current attacks and deter potential offensives.

“We discussed the need for armored vehicles, artillery, air defense, and ammunition. I emphasized the importance of quick delivery of weapons”.

France’s Defence Ministry responded to the statement, confirming that it was a project being worked on, but without absolutely saying it was going ahead immediately. Reuters reported them as having said: “As already mentioned several times, training on Ukrainian soil is one of the projects discussed since the conference on support for Ukraine convened by the President of the Republic on February 26.

“Like all the projects discussed at that time, this track continues to be the subject of work with the Ukrainians, in particular to understand their exact needs.”

A watchword of Western military assistance has been support without escalation, which saw donations limited by some states in the early days of the second invasion limited to sundries like ration packs and helmets, but not weapons. That position has been slowly ground down, with governments talking themselves into supplying advanced missiles, main battle tanks, and now even jet fighters to Ukraine, each of which was once considered a ‘red line’.

Perhaps the final red line is sending troops. And the revelation that French troops — even if in a advisory role — may actually be openly going to Ukraine is the latest development in a saga of several months triggered in February after President Macron broke the de facto omerta over Western ‘boots on the ground’ in the conflict.

As reported in February, Macron said sending soldiers to Ukraine “could not be ruled out” and that “we must do whatever we can to obtain our objective”. The revelation was triggered by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico claiming that NATO leaders were already discussing such plans in private, and that he had seen a “restricted” NATO document which “sends shivers down your spine”.

Fico has since been subject to an apparent assassination attempt by a gunman who said his pro-Ukraine military assistance views forced him to act.

France’s Macron faced a barrage of criticism from fellow NATO leaders over going public with his views on sending troops to Ukraine, but despite the furore has restated that position dozens of times since. Earlier this month, Macron said he would not “rule anything out”, stating his view that: “If Russia wins in Ukraine, there will be no security in Europe”.