The UK is sending around 8,000 troops to Eastern Europe in one of the largest deployments since the Cold War to help ‘deter Russian aggression’.
Dozens of tanks, along with artillery guns, armoured assault vehicles and aircraft, are also being sent to countries ranging from Finland to North Macedonia this summer under plans that have been ramped up since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the ‘show of solidarity and strength’ will see UK service personnel joining with Nato allies and those from the Joint Expeditionary Force alliance, which includes Finland and Sweden, for the exercises.
It comes after a British military veteran became the first UK national confirmed to have been killed in the conflict. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office confirmed another Brit is missing in Ukraine.
Tributes have been paid to Scott Sibley, remembered as ‘the bravest person’ and someone who ‘showed commando spirit until the end’, after the Foreign Office confirmed a British national had died in Ukraine and another is missing, without identifying the pair.
The families of both are being supported, a spokesperson said, declining to give names or further details. Mr Sibley is believed to have been fighting in support of Ukrainian forces.
Fundraisers have received donations of more than £10,000 for the veteran’s family, with Craig Grant writing on one Gofundme page: ‘To me he was a friend like no other and the bravest person I’ve had the pleasure to have known, he was as good as a brother to me.’
A small number of serving British personnel are believed to have gone absent without leave to join the resistance against the Russian invasion, while veterans and Britons without combat experience are thought to have also travelled to Ukraine.
Russia-Ukraine war: Everything you need to know
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the country has suffered widespread damages and loss of life amid a major bombing campaign.
Millions of people have fled the country, with thousands of British people opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees.
During the course of the war, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has remained in Kyiv, despite the Ukrainian capital being subjected to a barrage of bombing.
Zelensky has continuously pushed for aid and support from world leaders, as well as pressing for fast-tracked NATO membership.
Meanwhile, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been widely condemned for his attack on Ukraine.
His actions have been met by harsh economic sanctions, bans from competing in major sporting events, and countries moving away from using Russian oil.
- When did Russia invade Ukraine? A war timeline of important events
- How can I house a Ukrainian refugee or family?
- Where to buy a Ukraine ribbon pin
- When did President Vladimir Putin come to power?
- Who is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky?
- What is Ukraine’s currency, language, and what does its flag symbolise?
- Does Russia have any allies and what have they said about Ukraine?
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- How to cope with World War Three anxiety
The update comes as Russian sources published a list of 100 names of people they claim to be British ‘mercenaries’ fighting in Ukraine.
A pro-war Telegram channel called Rybar with almost 400,000 subscribers claimed the 99 men and one woman were part of the ‘International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine’, also known as the Ukrainian Foreign Legion.
It is unclear where the list came from, but Rybar suggests it was obtained via the offices of the governor of Mykolaiv region, Vitaliy Kim.
There are also doubts over how authentic the list is. Mr Sibley’s name does not appear on it, and nor do those of British fighters recently detained by the Russians in Mariupol.
It was published on the same day Ukrainian military officials released the names of Russian soldiers branded the ‘Despicable Ten’ who are accused of carrying out war crimes in Bucha.
Aircraft, tanks, artillery and armoured assault vehicles will join the exercises across Europe, with the UK deployment expected to build to a peak of around 8,000 personnel operating between April and June.
Commander Field Army Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse said: ‘The UK makes a significant contribution to the defence of Europe and the deterrence of Russian aggression.
‘The British Army’s series of exercises is fundamental to both.
‘The scale of the deployment, coupled with the professionalism, training and agility of the British Army, will deter aggression at a scale not seen in Europe this century.’
Troops from the Queen’s Royal Hussars have been deployed for embedding in an armoured brigade in Finland, which shares an 830 mile land border with Russia.
Exercises alongside American troops are also taking place in Poland.
Mr Wallace said: ‘The security of Europe has never been more important.
‘These exercises will see our troops join forces with allies and partners across Nato and the Joint Expeditionary Force in a show of solidarity and strength in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has also announced the UK will send war crimes experts to help the Ukrainian government with investigations into Russian atrocities.
The team will support the government in Kyiv in gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes and will include experts in conflict-related sexual violence.
They will arrive in neighbouring Poland early next month to examine how they can assist.
The announcement comes as Ms Truss meets with the president of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Friday.
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