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Minister Warns British Soldiers Not To Fight In Ukraine And Risk Dragging UK Into War With Russia

Minister Warns British Soldiers Not To Fight In Ukraine And Risk Dragging UK Into War With Russia

Armed forces minister James Heappey warned UK troops not to go AWOL and fight in Ukraine (Alamy)

3 min read

The Armed Forces minister has warned British troops not to go AWOL and fight in Ukraine as they risk the UK of being wrongly seen as "a belligerent" in the war with Russia.

James Heappey said it is illegal for current service personnel to travel to Ukraine, and warned those who are thinking of doing it that “no good comes from British service people or veterans going to Ukraine to be a part of this”.

Speaking on Sky News he said to “go absent without leave in order to fight in a foreign war is simply unacceptable, and frankly risks the United Kingdom being wrongly claimed by Russia to be a belligerent in this”.

"Service people who might think they are doing the right thing should reflect it is 100% not the correct thing to be doing,” he added.

Heappey confirmed a "very small number" of British troops have gone to Ukraine so far, and launched a direct address to those still thinking of going. 

"This is not the time for people to be going there, and the Ukrainians have made clear, once you cross the border with the with the expectation to fight, you're in it for good," Heappy said. 

"People who think they can go there, do a couple of weeks, take some selfies, get some Instagram shots and come home, that is not the way the Ukrainians are viewing the people that go and fight for them.

“British people should not be doing it."

The minister’s comments come after the foreign secretary Liz Truss was criticised for saying she would back Brits who wanted to go and help Ukraine fight the invasion by Vladimir Putin.

Both Number 10 and the defence secretary Ben Wallace directly contradicted her and told people not to go, but there have been numerous reports of those wanting to get involved now arriving there.

This morning a Ministry of Defence update said Russian forces north-west of Ukraine’s capital have made "little progress" and are "suffering continued losses”.

They also reported a "notable decrease in overall Russian air activity" over the country, saying it was "likely due to the unexpected effectiveness and endurance" of Kyiv's air defences.

But yesterday, Western officials warned as the invasion slowed down Putin would resort to more extreme measures, saying there is now “serious concern” he could use chemical weapons.

Attacks on civilian targets have already increased, after at least 17 people, including pregnant woman and doctors, were injured after a maternity hospital was bombed in the city of Mariupol yesterday.

Deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the Russian army knew what building they were bombing.

”This is the third hospital that they have destroyed in the city,” he said. “The previous day they destroyed hospital number nine by artillery shelling. This was a Covid hospital with 300 beds.

"They have also attacked and destroyed a blood collection station in Mariupol. So, it is the third hospital, I'm absolutely sure they know what are their targets.”

Heappey said he believed the incident amounted to a war crime by Russia. "We ask ourselves the question how did this happen?," he told BBC Breakfast. 

“Was it an indiscriminate use of artillery or missiles into a built-up area, or was a hospital explicitly targeted?

"Both are equally despicable, both, as the Ukrainians have pointed out, would amount to a war crime."

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