‘Non-lethal gifts & training’: UK, Poland offer support to Ukrainian army

Ukrainian president Petr Poroshenko walks along a formation of soldiers (RIA Novosti / Nikolay Lazarenko)
​The UK and Poland are taking new steps to support the Ukrainian army, as the international community struggles to uphold a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. While both countries will provide training, the UK will also send a “gift” of non-lethal aid.

Instead of deploying personnel, Ukraine’s western neighbor Poland has decided to train Ukrainian military instructors on its own soil because it believes it has better training facilities than those offered by Kiev.

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“Our bases and training facilities are better prepared and this is why they [the Ukrainian military instructors] will be trained in Poland,” government spokeswoman Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska was quoted as saying by Polish commercial broadcaster TVN24.

The decision was announced after Friday’s meeting in Warsaw between Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council chief Aleksandr Turchinov.

The UK for its part announced that it will present Ukraine with non-lethal military “gift” worth 850,000 pounds ($1.3 million). The shipment is scheduled to be dispatched in the coming weeks and will reportedly include first aid kits, night vision goggles, laptops, helmets and GPS units.

“This gift of non-lethal equipment is designed to prevent further Ukrainian fatalities and casualties,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said. “Our overall aim is to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need.”

The British aid is being offered alongside other military support, committed by the Prime Minister David Cameron last month. “This support is in addition to ongoing Defence engagement activities with Ukraine,” Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

The UK is planning to send 75 military personnel to Ukraine for a six-month-long training mission away from the eastern conflict zone in a move which goes hand in hand with Washington’s policies. The US also announced that it is deploying about 300 military personnel to Ukraine between March and October to train the Ukrainian army.

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However, the deployment of Western military advisers has some gloomy implications, warned Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin during the Friday UN Security Council meeting.

“The whole world knows: Wherever US troops emerge – trouble awaits. Let me remind you for instance, that during the Saakashvili regime’s attack on South Ossetia, 127 Pentagon advisers worked in Georgia. The result – conflict, blood, fear,” Churkin said, making it clear that American troop deployment in any capacity in any part of the world is a formula for trouble.