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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ben Quinn

Ukrainian troops return home after Challenger 2 tank training in UK

Ukrainian troops during their training at Bovington Camp in Dorset.
Ukrainian troops during their training at Bovington Camp in Dorset. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Ukrainian crews have returned home after completing training in the UK on British tanks that are expected to be used in a counteroffensive against Russia.

The training has been completed after UK military officials spent several weeks instructing the Ukrainian personnel in how to operate and fight with Challenger 2 tanks, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Monday.

The troops travelled to Britain shortly after Rishi Sunak announced in January that the UK would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. The MoD could not confirm the exact location of the tanks.

The Ukrainian crews and the tanks are expected to be in position in time for a spring counteroffensive that is believed to be in the works.

The UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said the Ukrainian soldiers “return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger”.

Wallace who visited the Ukrainian troops during their training at Bovington Camp in Dorset last month, said: “It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil. We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The crews received training that included instructions included how to command, drive and work together as a Challenger 2 tank crew and effectively identify and engage targets, the MoD said.

Lt Cl 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.”

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

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, visited the troops at the training facility in early February alongside Sunak.

As well as the 14 UK Challenger tanks, the UK is sending Ukraine 20 Bulldog armoured troop carriers and 30 AS-90 self-propelled artillery guns.

A number of Nato member states have announced supplies of tanks to Ukraine, after pleas by the government in Kyiv, including Leopard main battle tanks. The US is sending a number of M1 Abrams, which, like the Leopards and Challengers, represent a significant upgrade for Ukrainian forces.

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