July 13, 2024

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s new defense secretary has suggested that British military training of Ukrainian soldiers, which currently takes place in U.K. bases, could move into western Ukraine.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Grant Shapps said he was in discussion with the British army about “eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well.”

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was quick to rule out speculation that British forces were being deployed to Ukraine imminently. Shapps’ suggestion was not for the “hear and now,” Sunak told reporters, but a possibility “for the long term.”

“There are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict. That’s not what’s happening,” Sunak said.

More than 23,500 recruits from Ukraine have received combat training in army bases across the U.K. since the start of 2022, receiving instruction on skills including weapons handling and battlefield first aid. Earlier this year Britain’s government committed to training a further 20,000 recruits.

The training is part of a broader package of support for Ukraine that includes a pledge of 2.3 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) of anti-tank weapons, rocket systems and other hardware this year.

Shapps, who took over as defense secretary from his predecessor Ben Wallace in August, said he also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week about Britain’s Royal Navy helping to defend commercial vessels in the Black Sea. He did not provide details.

He added that U.K. defense companies should consider setting up production in Ukraine.

“Particularly in the west of the country, I think the opportunity now is to bring more things in country, and not just training. We’re seeing BAE, for example, move into manufacturing in country,” he said, referring to the leading British defense and aerospace manufacturer. “I’m keen to see other British companies do their bit as well by doing the same thing.”

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For more coverage of the war in Ukraine, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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