Ukrainian troops complete UK training for Challenger 2 tanks

British military officials spent weeks instructing Ukrainian personnel how to fight with armoured assault vehicles

A Challenger 2 main battle tank on manoeuvres in the Omani desert in October 2018. PA
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Ukrainian troops are returning home to continue the country's fight against Russia's invasion having successfully completed training in the UK on how to use Challenger 2 tanks.

The Ukrainian soldiers “return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger”, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

Shortly after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced in January that the UK would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, members of its armed forces travelled to Britain to begin training in how to use the hardware.

The Ministry of Defence said the training had been completed after UK military officials spent several weeks instructing Ukrainian personnel on how to operate and fight with the tanks.

Instructions included how to command, drive and work together as a Challenger 2 tank crew and effectively identify and engage targets, the ministry said.

“It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil," said Mr Wallace, who visited the troops during their training at Bovington Camp in Dorset last month.

“We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Lt Col John Stone, who oversaw the training mission, said: “It has been a privilege for the Combat Manoeuvre Centre team to deliver this training to our Ukrainian partners.

“We have all been hugely impressed with the level of competence displayed, and have no doubt that our friends will use the Challenger 2 tanks most effectively in the battles to come as they fight to defend their homeland.”

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The ministry described the Challenger 2 vehicles as a “step change in capability” for Ukraine’s armed forces, saying the machines would offer some of the most modern and sophisticated systems in the world.

The Ukrainian troops will return with the western tanks in time for an expected spring counter-offensive by Kyiv.

The US is supplying Abrams tanks, and Germany and other European allies providing Leopard 2s. Any strike on Russian lines is expected to involve the western tanks.

In what has been one of the bloodiest battles seen in Europe since the Second World War, Ukraine is continuing to hold the eastern city of Bakhmut.

The top commander of Ukraine’s military, Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said on Saturday that the situation was “stabilising”, with his troops pushing back against Russian soldiers in the long, grinding battle for the salt-mining town in the Donbas.

British military intelligence said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops appeared to be moving to a defensive strategy in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Moscow revealed plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus.

Mr Putin announced the plan in a TV interview that aired on Saturday, saying it was brought on by a UK decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Updated: March 26, 2023, 11:01 PM