The UK has signed a deal to supply warships and missiles to Ukraine as 90,000 Russian troops mass on the country’s border amid rising tensions in the region.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace signed a treaty with Ukraine last week, under which the country’s government can access financing for contracts with UK suppliers to help beef up its naval capabilities.
It is expected to help deliver two mine counter-measures vessels (MCMV), the joint production of eight missile ships, the delivery of and retrofit of weapons systems to existing vessels, and the joint production of a frigate and consultancy and technical support for the building of naval infrastructure including the delivery of equipment.
In response, Moscow complained that the deal would boost Ukraine’s navy, which it said showed British military activities were expanding near its borders.
Pictured: HMS Brocklesby arrives in Portsmouth on October 8, 2021. The UK has signed a deal to supply anti-mine warships (similar to the HMS Brocklesby) and missiles to Ukraine as Russian troops mass on the country’s border and amid rising tensions with the Kremlin
It comes after Boris Johnson warned Vladimir Putin against making a ‘tragic mistake’ as tensions rise on the border between Russia and Ukraine.
The Prime Minister, appearing at the Commons Liaison Committee, was asked about the problems between Belarus and Poland and the situation in Ukraine.
Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, have been amassing at the Belarus border with Poland for months.
Brussels has accused Belarus’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of deliberately encouraging the migrants to breach its borders in retaliation for sanctions the EU has imposed in response to his repressive rule.
But reports on Wednesday suggested that hundreds had been moved to a nearby warehouse in Belarusian territory.
Downing Street has also voiced concern about the build-up of Russian forces on Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Pictured: A Russian soldier trains in a tank in woods, November 11, amid rising tensions between Russia and the West over its build-up of troops on its border with Ukraine
The Kremlin has dismissed claims that it is preparing to invade, after the Ukrainian defence ministry reported that around 90,000 Russian troops were in the area.
Mr Johnson said the two cases are ‘very different’ because Poland has a Nato security guarantee, meaning that any action against it could trigger a response from the entire alliance.
Ukraine does not have the same guarantee from Nato, ‘so what we have got to do is make sure that everybody understands the cost of a miscalculation on the borders of both Ukraine and Poland would be enormous’.
‘I think it would be a tragic, tragic mistake for the Kremlin to think there was anything to be gained,’ Mr Johnson said.
A joint statement from Mr Wallace and Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksii Yuriyovych Reznikov said: ‘Ukraine and the United Kingdom are strategic partners in security and defence.
‘Last week, an Intergovernmental Framework Agreement was signed in London.
‘This document continues progress on joint projects to develop the capabilities of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as agreed in June when the UK, Ukraine and industry signed a Memorandum of Implementation to collaborate to boost Ukraine’s naval capabilities.’
Pictured: A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces fires during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in Kherson region, Ukraine, November 17, 2021
It said: ‘Our governments have no desire to be adversarial, or seek in any way to strategically encircle or undermine the Russian Federation. We are concerned by Russia’s military build-up and activity around the borders of Ukraine.
‘Ukraine’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is indisputable.
‘The United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and will continue its long-standing determination to support them.
‘We are unwavering in that support and together we remain vigilant and united in the defence of our common values and freedoms.’
Russia has responded to such concerns by denying that it is threatening anyone, criticising ‘alarmist’ news reports and affirming its right to deploy its troops as it likes on its own territory.
On Wednesday, Russia complained about the deal that would boost Ukraine’s navy, which it said showed British military activities were expanding near its borders.
Moscow voiced its objections to a framework agreement under which Ukraine will use British financing to enhance its naval capabilities, allowing it to buy missiles and build missile ships and a navy base on the Sea of Azov.
Russia complained about the deal that would boost Ukraine’s navy, which it said showed British military activities were expanding near its borders. Pictured: Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces drive during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in Kherson region, Ukraine on Wednesday
‘We see this fact as the latest practical evidence of increasing British military activity in the states bordering Russia, in particular Ukraine,’ Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a weekly briefing.
Her comments added to a pattern of statements in recent weeks in which Russia has voiced increasingly vehement opposition to Western military support of any kind for Ukraine, let alone the possibility of it joining NATO.
Ukraine and Russia have been foes since 2014, when Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and backed a rebellion in the east.
Major combat ended with a ceasefire agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk in 2015, but sporadic clashes still regularly kill civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and separatists.
Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine grew worse recently amid reports of Russia’s military build-up near the Ukrainian border.
Russia dismissed such allegations, saying it poses no threat and can move its troops over its territory as it deems necessary.
Despite it’s denial, Russia also said on Wednesday it would deploy a new paratroop regiment on annexed Crimea by the beginning of December.
Russia’s military said it would establish the new regiment on the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, completing a reshuffle of forces touted by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in March, the Interfax news agency reported.
Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders, while Moscow in turn has accused Ukraine, the United States and their allies of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Wednesday its armed forces had conducted drills near the borders of Crimea.