British troops training forces in Ukraine and German factories making Taurus missiles—should Berlin provide Kyiv with the long-range weapon—would be a legitimate targets for Russian strikes, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said.
British defense minister Grant Shapps indicated to Britain’s Sunday Telegraph that London was in talks to move “more training and production” of military hardware to within Ukrainian territory.
“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine,” Shapps said.
However, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak downplayed the defense minister’s comments, saying this was “something for the long term, not the here and now.”
“What the defense secretary was saying was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine,” Sunak said on Sunday ahead of the forthcoming Conservative Party conference. “There are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict.”
If British soldiers were deployed in this capacity, this would turn them into a “legal target” for Russia’s military, Medvedev said in a post to Telegram on Sunday.
These personnel “will be mercilessly destroyed,” said Medvedev, who currently serves as the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council.
Newsweek has reached out to the British Defense Ministry for comment via email.
A report released by the RAND Corporation think tank late last month suggested that certain events could accidentally escalate the war in Ukraine, including any future Russian strike on Ukrainian territory that killed NATO officials in the country.
Medvedev also warned that, should Germany make the decision to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine, Russian strikes on “German factories where these missiles are made would…be in full compliance with international law.”
NATO is adamant that it is not at war with Russia, but is supporting Kyiv against Moscow’s invasion. Should the war spill over into a NATO member state through a deliberate Russian strike, this could trigger the alliance’s Article 5, in which an attack on one NATO country is viewed as an attack on all member states.
Taurus missiles are broadly the same as the Anglo-French Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missiles that France and the U.K. have already sent to Ukraine. These allow Ukraine to strike further into Russian-held territory, complicating Moscow’s air defense plans.
Although Storm Shadows are very close in design to the Taurus, the latter’s “slightly improved warhead design” would make it a better weapon for targeting bridges, Fabian Hoffmann, a doctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo in Norway, told Newsweek in early August. Ukraine has repeatedly struck bridges connecting the annexed Crimean Peninsula with Russia and Russian-held territory in southern Ukraine.
The air-launched missiles have a range of more than 500 kilometers, or 300 miles, which is longer than the 155 miles typically touted for the Storm Shadow. Kyiv has repeatedly asked for Taurus missiles, but Berlin had hesitated, while the U.S. has avoided committing their long-range ATACMS, or Army Tactical Missile System. Although U.S. President Joe Biden has indicated to Kyiv that Washington will provide ATACMS, no further details have been confirmed.
In late September, The Wall Street Journal reported that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had stalled the approval of Taurus missiles for Kyiv because of concerns “that German personnel would have to travel to Ukraine to help service and operate the complex weapon.” A spokesperson for Scholz told the publication there was no plan for an imminent Taurus delivery to Ukraine.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a member of Germany’s parliament and the chair of the country’s Bundestag Defense Committee, said over the weekend that Berlin should “deliver Taurus immediately, because with the targeted use of cruise missiles the Ukrainian army can seriously disrupt Russian supplies.”
But Scholz is concerned that the provision of the missiles could pull Germany deeper into the ongoing war, and lead to a more direct face-off against Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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