Op ORBITAL: More British Soldiers Heading for Ukraine
Russian Aggression Against Ukraine a Threat to European Security
In a joint statement released today, 21 November, by the British and Ukrainian ministries of defence, the MOD signalled its intention to send more British soldiers to the Ukraine.
According to the Joint Statement, the MOD will “Deliver operational level training through increased UK presence under Op ORBITAL”. Over 1,300 British soldiers have already been deployed on Operation ORBITAL since 2015 and have trained more than 9,500 members of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
Operation ORBITAL was launched in February 2015 in response to a request from the Ukrainian government to provide guidance and training to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). The British Army was tasked to deliver defensive training. Conducted at a distance from the conflict in the east, Op ORBITAL is focused on improving medical, logistics, ground sign awareness and general infantry skills in the UAF.
Today’s statement stressed that Russian aggression towards Ukraine will be treated as a direct threat to Euro-Atlantic security.
Britain had earlier condemned what were called “illegitimate and unlawful elections” held in the Donbas and called on Russia to withdraw its military forces from Ukrainian territory on 12 November 2018.
Russian Violation of the Minsk Agreement
A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesman said:
The UK condemns the so-called “elections” which Russian-backed separatists held in the Donbas, Ukraine on 11 November: they are illegitimate and in violation of the Minsk Agreements. They undermine efforts to achieve peace in the region, and they are illegal under Ukrainian law.
These so-called “elections” took place against the background of Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia is providing arms to the separatists in the Donbas, with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reporting a flow of Russian military convoys crossing in and out of eastern Ukraine.
We call on Russia to fully implement its commitments under the Minsk Agreements, to stop providing financial and military support to the separatists, and to withdraw its armed forces and military equipment from Ukrainian territory.
We also strongly urge the Russian-backed separatists to stop obstructing OSCE monitors, and to grant safe and unhindered access so essential humanitarian assistance can be delivered to the 1.8 million people in need within non-government controlled areas.
The UK again reiterates our commitment to diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, so that legitimate and credible elections can be held in line with the Minsk Agreements and that this conflict be brought to an end.
Op ORBITAL Extended by Two Years to 2020
During a visit to Marinka and Kyiv in September, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to Ukraine, announcing that Op ORBITAL would continue until 2020.
In his first visit as Defence Secretary to Ukraine, Gavin Williamson met 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 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 their country. He also discussed the Russian security forces continuing to disrupt merchant vessels trying to access Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, negatively affecting Ukraine’s economy.
WIlliamson also travelled to Marinka in the east of Ukraine to see the effects of the four-year conflict in the Donbas region, 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 cost, driven by Russian aggression.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
I witnessed first-hand the suffering caused by the brutal conflict in eastern Ukraine – a conflict that is being prolonged by the Russian-backed separatists.
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.
Op ORBITAL Training Programme Expanded
The training, delivered through Operation Orbital, has been expanded in 2018 to include anti-armour, 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), infantry skills, medical care and logistics that UK personnel have been delivering since early 2015.
British personnel have trained over 9,500 of the Ukrainian Armed Forces since the start of Operation Orbital in 2015. The coming year will see a continuing growth in joint training activity with the UK’s Canadian allies as well as initiatives between UK personnel and other nations who have also committed themselves to supporting Ukraine.
The UK is also funded information operations through the NGO StopFake.org to promote fact-checking and debunking of fake news targeting Ukraine.
The joint defence statement was made after a meeting of the Minister of Defence of Ukraine and the British Secretary of State for Defence in London today.
The Joint Statement in Full
JOINT STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE OF UKRAINE AND THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND