Ukrainian crews complete UK training on Challenger 2 tanks
Ukrainian crews have completed training on Challenger 2 tanks in the UK and returned home to continue their fight against Russia’s invasion.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Ukrainian soldiers “return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger”.
Members of Kyiv’s armed forces travelled to Britain shortly after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced in January that the UK would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to help oust the Kremlin’s invaders from Ukraine.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the training has been completed after UK military officials spent several weeks instructing Ukrainian personnel how to operate and fight with the tanks.
Instructions included how to command, drive and work together as a Challenger 2 tank crew and effectively identify and engage targets, the MoD said.
Mr Wallace, who visited the Ukrainian troops during their training at Bovington Camp in Dorset last month, said: “It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil.
“They return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger.
“We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Lieutenant Colonel John Stone, who oversaw the training mission, said: “It has been a privilege for the Combat Manoeuvre Centre team to deliver this training to our Ukrainian partners.
“We have all been hugely impressed with the level of competence displayed and have no doubt that our friends will use the Challenger 2 tanks most effectively in the battles to come as they fight to defend their homeland.”
The MoD described the Challenger 2 vehicles as a “step change in capability” for Ukraine’s armed forces, saying the machines would offer them some of the most modern and sophisticated gunnery systems in the world.
The Ukrainian troops will return with the Western tanks in time for a reported spring counter-offensive by Kyiv that is said to be in the works.
With the US supplying Abrams tanks, and Germany and other European allies providing Leopard 2 tanks, any strike on Russian lines is expected to involve the Western tanks manned by Kyiv’s forces.
In what has been one of the bloodiest battles seen in Europe since the Second World War, Ukraine is continuing to hold the eastern city of Bakhmut.
The top commander of Ukraine’s military, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said on Saturday that the situation was “stabilising”, with his forces pushing back against Russian troops in the long and grinding battle for the salt-mining town in the Donbas.
British military intelligence also said Russian president Vladimir Putin’s troops appeared to be moving to a defensive strategy in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Moscow revealed plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus.
Mr Putin announced the plan in a television interview that aired on Saturday, saying it was triggered by a UK decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.