British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday said that comments made by his defense secretary about sending troops into Ukraine for training are part of long-term planning, not something the UK would do in the “here and now.”
British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps told the Sunday Telegraph that he was discussing the idea of moving London’s training programs for Ukrainian troops from the UK into Ukraine. “I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” Shapps said.
According to the Discord leaks and several media reports, the UK has had special operations forces inside Ukraine. The Times of London reported all the way back in April 2022 that British Special Air Service troops were training Ukrainians on anti-tank weapons outside of Kyiv. But the presence was never officially acknowledged by London, and an open British military deployment to Ukraine would mark a significant escalation of NATO involvement in the war.
In response to Shapps’ comments, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the potential British deployment would turn British military instructors into “legal targets” of the Russian armed forces. Medvedev said the British troops would be “ruthlessly eliminated, and this time not as mercenaries but as British NATO specialists.”
But Sunak insisted Shapps was not talking about deploying troops to Ukraine anytime soon. Sunak said that Britain had been training Ukrainians “for a long time” inside the UK. “And what the Defence Secretary was saying was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine,” he said.
“But that’s something for the long term, not the here and now, there are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict. That’s not what’s happening. What we are doing is training Ukrainians. We’re doing that here in the UK,” Sunak added.