UK troops may deploy into Ukraine for the first time to train soldiers as on-the-ground training efforts ramp up between the war torn country and its international allies.
“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” Shapps told the outlet. “Particularly in the west of the country, I think the opportunity now is to bring more things ‘in country’.”
The plan, as stated, marks a dramatic shift from the UK and other allies’ previous avoidance of implementing a formal military presence in the region to avoid direct conflict with Russia.
In addition to offering training on the ground in Ukraine, Shapps said British defense companies like BAE Systems are moving manufacturing into the country. It’s something he hopes to see more British companies do, as well.
“I’m keen to see other British companies do their bit as well by doing the same thing,” Shapps said, per The Telegraph. “So I think there will be a move to get more training and production in the country.”
Shapps also floated the idea of the British Navy aiding Ukraine in the Black Sea.
“We’ve seen in the last month or so, developments – really the first since 2014 in the Black Sea, in Crimea – and Britain is a naval nation so we can help and we can advise, particularly since the water is international water,” Shapps told The Telegraph, adding that he had discussed the plan with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this week.
He continued: “It’s important that we don’t allow a situation to establish by default that somehow international shipping isn’t allowed in that water. So I think there’s a lot of places where Britain can help advise.”
Representatives for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence and the office of Grant Shapps did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.
While Ukraine has relied on its international allies for military training, equipment, and humanitarian aid as Russia’s invasion of the country drags into its 19th month, officials outside of Ukraine have been reluctant to deploy troops into the country for fear of escalating the existing conflict.
The US has mobilized roughly 4,000 troops to defend the NATO states bordering Ukraine and has offered military training on US soil but has stopped short of directly deploying squadrons to fight in Ukraine, though a small number of special operations forces are stationed at the embassy in Kyiv to aid in intelligence missions, according to ABC News.
Earlier this month, NBC News reported Pentagon officials began debating whether or not to bring US troops stationed on Ukraine’s borders home or replace them with new soldiers.