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Military Assistance (Ukraine)

Volume 604: debated on Monday 18 January 2016

Our military training in Ukraine will continue throughout the year and we have plans to increase our footprint. I can announce today that we plan to gift a further 3,500 individual first aid kits to Ukraine’s armed forces. Our gift responds to a specific request from Ukraine and will be delivered in the spring.

Of course, when Ukraine gained independence, it voluntarily gave up the option of keeping nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. Aggression by Russia and destabilisation have been its sole reward. Following the NATO summit in Wales, British troops have been deployed in a training role in Ukraine. Will the Minister update us on the success in improving the training of the Ukrainian armed forces to make sure that they have a fair fight against Russian-backed aggression?

My hon. Friend is right to point out how our commitment to the continuous at-sea deterrence helps us to have influence. I assure him that we are on target for the training of 2,000 Ukrainian troops by the end of this financial year.

I am sure that the first aid kits are very welcome in Ukraine, but if we are serious about supporting Ukraine, which is under such pressure from the pernicious regime of President Putin in Russia, surely we should be doing much more visible work for it. For instance, we could tighten the sanctions on Russia. That is what it does not like and what has proven to be successful. We should tighten the sanctions week by week, month by month.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is what we are doing. We have argued for sanctions through our work with NATO. We are doing much more than supplying first aid kits. We are doing a huge amount of capacity building in those armed forces. We have given them a huge amount of equipment, particularly to protect them from the cold weather in which they are operating. They are very grateful for that. We stand ready to assist them further and I will be visiting the country shortly.

Ukraine has been on the frontline of the expansionist agenda of Putin’s Russia, but it is not alone in that in eastern Europe. What assistance is the United Kingdom giving through NATO and the European Union to a number of countries, particularly the Baltic states, to combat the expansionism they face from Russia?

We do a huge amount of operational and practical work, such as on Baltic air policing. We have also been very active through our diplomatic channels, through both NATO and the EU, to hold Russia’s feet to the fire on these issues. Progress is being made. There has been recent progress, with fewer violations of the ceasefire. We will continue to act both practically and diplomatically.