Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has praised the “dedication and determination” of Ukrainian soldiers being trained to operate British Challenger 2 tanks donated for the war against Russia.
The Secretary of State, who is a former soldier himself, met the troops training at Bovington Camp in Dorset and told them: “Britain is going to continue with you until the end.
“We are not in it for a period, we are in it until we defeat Russia in Ukraine and send them home.”
He added: “We will keep with you, and from Britain’s point of view the message to Russia is we are not giving up and we are not going away.”
Speaking to a Ukrainian commander, he said: “I think your tactics are working alongside the bravery of your soldiers and it’s really showing the Russians. Keep doing it.”
After being driven by a Ukrainian soldier in a Challenger training tank, he said: “You can see their dedication, they are determined and their work ethos is extraordinary, they are here to do a job which is to train with us to get back into the battle as soon as they can.”
A total of 56 Ukrainians are being trained by the British Army to operate the 14 Challenger 2 tanks being donated by the UK.
Mr Wallace said that the Challenger and other tanks being donated by western countries had “better capabilities” than the previous equipment used by Ukraine.
He added: “These tanks are not just about learning to drive them and fight them, it’s about learning to weave them together with armoured infantry to create a combined arms effect which is how we fight at Nato so that they can make a proper advance against the Russians.”
Mr Wallace said he would consider further donations of tanks to Ukraine and added: “Let’s see how these get stitched together and become a combined force, I don’t rule anything out.”
The Defence Secretary said that despite previously expressing his concerns that the British military had been “hollowed out”, the Government was committed to the military.
He said: “We are a pretty large army, we are running at 75,000 regulars with significant numbers of tanks and armoured vehicles, yes the Army needs to modernise which is why £34 billion is going to be invested between now and 2032.
“Ultimately, I don’t think we are going to be vulnerable for our hollowing out, remember this is a conflict against Russia, if Russia is victorious in Ukraine we will be much, much more vulnerable and insecure than the rest of Europe.
“For about 30 years we have been losing a share of spending but the ambitions of government have grown and that stretch which we saw in the Iraq war, Afghanistan and the Pacific tilt in 2020 has to be paid for, you can’t have more appetite than you can stomach.
“And that stretch creates behaviour, meant things were hollowed out, ammunition, readiness levels, and Boris Johnson as prime minister and Rishi as chancellor recognised that in 2020 and for very the first time in 30 years we started to get more money.”
He said he was carrying out negotiations with the Treasury over increased funding in the next budget, adding: “With Russia on European borders behaving like it is, we have to be more active and we have to fix vulnerabilities. Threat levels have changed, which means I have a budget pressure.”