UK sends minehunters to boost Ukraine’s Black Sea forces

Britain and Norway plan to help Ukraine bolster Black Sea security amid its war with Russia.

The UK has transferred two minehunter ships to Ukraine as part of a new push to strengthen the country’s presence in the Black Sea amid Russia’s invasion.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced Ukraine’s procurement of the two Royal Navy vessels on Monday. The deal is part of a new Maritime Capability Coalition, led by Britain and Norway, aimed at providing long-term military support to bolster security in the Black Sea.

The focus on maritime operations has increased after nearly two years of war. Ukraine has targeted Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the annexed Crimea peninsula, as it has sought to use ships to export grain.

“As an island nation with a proud maritime history, the UK and Royal Navy are particularly well-placed to support this endeavour, which will form part of a series of new coalitions formed between allies to ensure an enduring military commitment in support of Ukraine,” UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said, explaining how the warships are an important first step.

“These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine, which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since [Russian President Vladimir] Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion,” Shapps said.

“This capability boost marks the beginning of a new dedicated effort by the UK, Norway and our allies to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities over the long term, enhancing their ability to operate in defending their sovereign waters and bolstering security in the Black Sea.”

The coalition will also work with the Ukrainian navy to expand its forces in the Black Sea, develop a Ukrainian Marine Corps and enhance the use of river patrol craft to defend inland and coastal waterways, the ministry said.

The UK and Ukraine made the deal for the two minehunters in June 2021, before Russia’s full-scale invasion. Ukrainian soldiers have been training on the ships since last year. London has also provided military training courses to around 20,000 Ukrainians over the past year.

The UK is the second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine, after the US.

The two Sandown-class mine countermeasures vessels were procured by Ukraine through UK Export Finance.

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