UK warns its soldiers against expeditions to Ukraine to ‘take some selfies’
UK Armed Forces minister James Heappey warned on Thursday that British military personnel and veterans must not travel to Ukraine to fight for “a couple of weeks” against the Russian military and “take some selfies.”
Speaking on Sky News, Heappey stated that it is illegal for British soldiers to embroil themselves in the conflict in Ukraine. “To go absent without leave in order to fight in a foreign war is simply unacceptable and frankly risks the UK being wrongly claimed by Russia to be a belligerent in this,” the minister said.
Heappey was clear that any serving soldiers who choose to join the conflict between Ukraine and Russia will be breaking the law and would find themselves in “a lot of trouble,” citing a statement released by the British Army.
Responding to media reports, the British Army confirmed that a “small number of individuals soldiers” have “disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave,” believing they “may have travelled to Ukraine.”
In a clear statement to any soldiers or veterans considering joining Ukrainian forces, the British Army reiterated that “all service personnel are prohibited from travelling to Ukraine until further notice.”
The remarks from Heappey and the British Army follow a similar statement by the Foreign Office, which told British citizens “If you travel to Ukraine to fight, or to assist others engaged in the conflict, your activities may amount to offences against UK legislation and you could be prosecuted on your return to the UK.”
The 1870 Foreign Enlistment Act prohibits UK citizens from joining and fighting alongside the “military or naval service of any foreign state” that is engaged in a war with a nation the UK is currently officially at peace with.
The warning from the government comes after it was reported that the eldest son of Conservative MP Helen Grant had traveled to Ukraine to fight on the front lines. Ben Grant, who served as a Royal Marines Commando for five years, is part of a group of seven ex-soldiers who arrived in Ukraine over the weekend.
Speaking to The Guardian on Saturday, Grant confirmed he was heading to Kyiv, claiming he was doing it off his own back and it had “nothing to do with the government” or his family.