In what we believe is the first touchdown of Western 'boots-on-the-ground' in Ukraine, Britain's David Cameron stated today that British military personnel are to be deployed to Ukraine for the first time in the next few weeks to provide advice and training to government troops. As The Guardian reports, Britain would be “the strongest pole in the tent”, and argued for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine failed to observe the ceasefire. The MoD said up to 75 personnel would begin to deploy to Ukraine from next month as Cameron warned sanctions could become "materially different" and held out SWIFT exclusion once again.
British military personnel are to be deployed to Ukraine for the first time in the next few weeks to provide advice and training to government troops, David Cameron announced before a committee of MPs.
The prime minister said Britain would be “the strongest pole in the tent”, and argued for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine failed to observe the provisions of a ceasefire agreement reached this month with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko.
The Ministry of Defence said up to 75 personnel would begin to deploy to Ukraine from next month as part of the training mission... for up to six months.
Cameron said Europe listened to Britain on how to implement sanctions, and he said the level of sanctions “might become materially different” in the future . He held out the possibility of excluding Russia from the international Swift banking payments system, saying there was a logic to such a move if Moscow continued trying to “dismember” Ukraine.
“I think what we should be putting in to place is a sense that if there is another Debaltseve [a Ukrainian town seized by pro-Russia forces this month] then that will trigger a round of sanctions that will be materially different to what we have seen so far,” he said.
He suggested it would be “miraculous” if the terms of the 12 February ceasefire agreement brokered in Minsk by Merkel and Hollande were met in full.
The prime minister said the UK was not at the stage of providing “lethal weapons” to Ukraine, but hinted that might change if the US changed its view.
“We have announced a whole series of non-lethal equipment – night-vision goggles, body armour – which we have already said that we will give to Ukraine,” he said. “Over the course of the next month we are going to be deploying British service personnel to provide advice and a range of training, from tactical intelligence to logistics to medical care, which is something else they have asked for.
He said there was no doubt about Russian support for the rebels. “What we are seeing is Russian-backed aggression, often these are Russian troops, they are Russian tanks, they are Russian Grad missiles. You can’t buy these things on eBay, they are coming from Russia, people shouldn’t be in any doubt about that.
“We have got the intelligence, we have got the pictures and the world knows that. Sometimes people don’t want to see that but that is the fact.”
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We suspect Putin will not be impressed at the 'encroachment'.