British defense chief wants to send UK troops to Ukraine

Grant Shapps sees an “opportunity” for London to “bring more things” into Ukraine

The newly-appointed Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, has unveiled ongoing discussions about expanding the UK-led training program for Ukrainian troops and potentially relocating British instructors into the country itself, as well as offering Kiev unspecified naval support in the Black Sea.

“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” Shapps told The Telegraph after a visit to a Salisbury Plain training ground, on Friday.

During his trip to Kiev earlier this week, the new defense chief, who got his post in a government reshuffle a month ago, apparently saw an “opportunity” to “bring more things in country.” Shapps explained he meant “not just training,” but also weapons manufacturing, as he praised the British arms giant BAE Systems for its plans to localize in Ukraine.

“I’m keen to see other British companies do their bit as well by doing the same thing. So I think there will be a move to get more training and production in the country,” he added.

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British arms maker to launch production in Ukraine – Zelensky 

In his discussions with the Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, Shapps also reportedly said that Britain’s Navy could play a role in “defending commercial vessels” the Black Sea, according to The Telegraph.

“Britain is a naval nation so we can help and we can advise, particularly since the water is international water,” he said without elaborating what kind of help he offered Zelensky.

The UK military conducted an official operation to train and arm Ukrainian troops since 2015, which has since shifted out of the country. British Royal Marines also conducted several high-risk “discreet operations” in Ukraine last year, according to one general, but officially London never admitted to having any significant presence in the country after the conflict with Russia escalated in 2022. However, several classified US military documents that leaked online earlier this year suggested that some 50 British special operatives were still active in Ukraine.

The open deployment of British military personnel would be yet another escalation, after the UK became the first NATO country to supply Kiev with depleted uranium shells as well as long-range cruise missiles which Ukraine has since repeatedly used in attacks against Russian infrastructure.

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US and UK involved in attack on Crimea – Russia

Moscow has repeatedly described the conflict in Ukraine as one between Russia and the “entire Western military machine,” while Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that there are entire military units in Ukraine “under the de-facto command of Western advisers.”

British intelligence experts were also involved in studying ways to blow up Russia’s Crimea Bridge using divers or maritime drones, according to independent news website The Grayzone. Last year’s attack on the bridge was carried out using a truck bomb, rather than the options discussed in the UK analysis, but in July Kiev used two suicide sea drones in a deadly strike that damaged a span of the road and killed two civilians.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused UK and US intelligence agencies of helping to coordinate the latest Ukrainian strike on Sevastopol, Crimea, which targeted the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Ukraine absent from emergency US government funding deal

The Senate has until the end of the day on Saturday to keep the government open

The US House of Representative approved a stopgap spending bill on Saturday. The proposed resolution would keep the government open for the next 45 days at the current spending level and adds billions of dollars in funding for US disaster relief but excludes aid to Ukraine despite Biden’s request.

The measure that passed in a 335-91 vote and, if approved by the Senate, would avert the largest government shutdown in history. 

The new plan, branded as a ‘clean’ bill by the Republicans, won the support from more Democrats than Republicans, with just one Democrat voting against the short-term funding measure. It will ensure that the federal operations are going at the current spending level, but includes none of the $20 billion funding for Ukraine that President Biden said was necessary. 

In a speech on the House floor Saturday, Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.) urged his colleagues not to allow the government to shut down simply because the bill excludes aid for Ukraine.

“If you’re telling the American people with a straight face you will shut down the American government over Ukraine, then shame on you,” Lawler said.

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West must tell Ukraine how long support will last – security chief

The continuing resolution bill was sent to the Senate just over 9 hours left before the shutdown deadline, with the House adjourning until Monday afternoon, which means that the lawmakers won’t come back to try something else if the Senate fails to approve the legislation. 

With the government shutdown looming at midnight, the Senate will now face immense pressure to pass the House bill even without aid for Ukraine.

The new bill was introduced by the Republicans on Saturday morning, after an earlier plan aimed at steep social spending cuts and tougher border security measures was rejected on Friday.