Operations

Operation Orbital: The British Troops Training Ukraine In Trench Warfare

With tensions between Russia and Ukraine rising, NATO allies have been in the country to train Ukrainian forces.

British soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Rifles (3 RIFLES) are among those training the Ukrainian forces in their battle against Russian-backed separatists.

It comes as tensions between Ukraine and Russia increase over the recent incident in the Kerch Strait, resulting in Russia seizing three Ukrainian naval ships. 

Ukraine accused Russia of "openly aggressive actions" after one of its tugboats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel off the coast of Crimea.

The incident took place on Sunday, as two Ukrainian navy artillery boats and a tugboat was sailing from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait, a narrow passage between Crimea and the Russian mainland.

UK training mission in Ukraine
Instructors from 3 RIFLES have been training Ukrainian troops to fight in a real conflict.

British troops are now putting the Ukrainians through their paces as they join them on Operation Orbital. 

They are looking to aid their allies by passing on hard-won expertise.

Since 2015, British military personnel have helped support Ukraine against Russian aggression, training over 9,500 students.

WATCH: The British Instructors training Ukrainian Troops face fresh challenges in their homeland

“Obviously if you’re working in an infantry unit you need to be a good leader so the people below you follow you," Lance Corporal Malcolm of 3 RIFLES told Forces News. 

"And hopefully that’s what we’re teaching these, how to become better leaders and better commanders. And then that’ll help them in the future.

“They’re very enthusiastic, willing to learn and they engage well with us. I think they’re really happy with what we’re teaching them.”

Ukrainian troops being trained by British Army instructors in the east of the country
Ukraine has felt under threat from Russia since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

His colleague, Second Lieutenant Nelson agreed: "They’re really, really keen to listen, learn and take on board what we’re doing.

"We’ve had absolutely no discipline problems at all. And actually they’ve surprised us with the level they’re at already.

“A lot of the guys here are volunteers, they could be on leave but they’ve chosen to come on this course. Certainly with this course that we’re running here, most of them have been through the officer academy in Ukraine."

Ukrainian troops training for frontline fighting
40 British Army instructors have been training Ukrainian troops in frontline tactics.

But the Ukrainians aren't the only ones discovering new tactics...

British soldiers have equally learnt a thing or two from their Ukrainian counterparts, including how to keep warm in harsh conditions. 

Following the annexation of Crimea 4 years ago, their conflict against Russian backed forces in the eastern border region continues.

On Thursday, Ukraine's president urged NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov amid its stand-off with Russia.

Petro Poroshenko made the call in an interview with the German daily Bild, saying: "We hope that states within NATO are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security."

Major Charlie, Officer Commanding Training Wing on Operational Orbital, says it shows "the importance of our support as a nation".

Sergeant Kevin from 3 RIFLES explained how the British are using Operation Orbital to help with their training.

"In trench warfare, you can focus on honing the skills of an urban environment - so it's quite close and condensed," he said.

"We can teach them how to fight in complex operations."

He added: "Also the risk of casualties, here there would be a bigger risk of casualties in this environment."

Ukraine Trench Warfare 291118 Credit BFBS
Input from allies is helping them build up their skills on the battlefield.

1st Lieutenant Mikkel of the Danish Army echoed his comments, saying they're able to provide "very good" training to them.

"We have experiences from several different places around the world with building up defence positions - whereas, for Ukrainians, it's been a hard strain on them and their military forces.

"We're definitely able to provide some very good training for them."

Ukraine has promised to implement reforms to achieve its ambition of being a NATO nation by 2020.