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Ukraine: Operation Orbital

Volume 600: debated on Monday 12 October 2015

Further to my statement to the House on 25 February, Official Report, column 321 and my written statement of 6 March this year, Official Report, column 83, I wish to update the House on our support for the Ukrainian armed forces.

The February ceasefire agreement, which came into effect at the beginning of September, has seen a reduction in violence in much of the conflict zone. We very much hope that this will bring an end to the fighting and generate substantial progress with the other measures agreed at Minsk.

This Government are committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. As a result of their prolonged engagement in this crisis, the Ukrainian armed forces have faced a serious shortage of training and basic equipment and have requested help. The Ukrainians value highly the UK’s support to training their personnel through Operation ORBITAL, welcoming our flexibility and responsiveness to their requests for assistance, and highlighting that our training has made a tangible difference on the ground to their capability.

So far this year the armed forces have deployed 19 teams to train nearly 1,600 members of the Ukrainian armed forces. Over 2,000 troops will have been trained by April 2016. Given the continued importance of our support in developing the resilience of Ukraine’s armed forces I have agreed that the UK should extend our training into the next financial year, with the continued deployment of short-term training teams to deliver training to meet the Ukrainian armed forces requirements.

For the financial year 2016-17 this will see an increase from the current 75 personnel, announced last February, to around 100 deployed to Ukraine at any one time. This uplift will ensure we have sufficient flexibility to meet evolving Ukrainian requests without unnecessarily constraining activity. The UK co-ordinates our training support with allies, from November there will be a UK liaison officer in the new US-led joint multinational training group based in western Ukraine. In addition to Operation ORBITAL activity, the UK will continue with its wider support to institutional capacity building and defence reform in Ukraine.