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Ukraine war: UK programme to train ‘citizen soldiers’ is expanding | UK News

The UK is significantly expanding a training programme in Britain to turn potentially tens of thousands of Ukrainian recruits into frontline soldiers to fight Russia, Sky News has learnt.

The combat course is being extended in length to five weeks from three weeks, keeping more of the training in the UK, away from the threat of Russian missile strikes – a hazard for anyone learning how to become a soldier at sites inside Ukraine, it is understood.

Some 4,700 personnel have already been through the training at military bases in the north, southwest and southeast of England since it began in June, with commanders intending to continue the support for as long as Ukraine needs new troops to fight Russia’s invasion.

The UK is significantly expanding a training programme in Britain to turn potentially tens of thousands of Ukrainian recruits into frontline soldiers to fight Russia
Image:
Pic: MoD

Military instructors from eight other countries, including New Zealand, Sweden and the Netherlands, have joined with their British counterparts to provide the expanded training mission.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said it demonstrated “our shared resolve to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visits UK troops training Ukraine citizens to be soldiers. The UK is significantly expanding a training programme to turn potentially tens of thousands of Ukrainian recruits into frontline soldiers to fight Russia. Pic: Ministry of Defence
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The defence secretary said meeting the Ukrainians learning to fight was ‘humbling’. Pic: MoD

In quotes released to Sky News by the Ministry of Defence, confirming the expanded programme, Mr Wallace said the training course had “developed rapidly, and we are now extending it to five weeks to provide the best possible preparation for Ukrainian soldiers who will soon be in active combat operations”.

He added: “Meeting those citizen soldiers and witnessing first-hand their courage and determination is a humbling experience.

More on Ministry Of Defence

“We must do everything we can to help them defend their homes against this illegal and unprovoked Russian invasion, and will continue to do so for as long as it takes. We stand with Ukraine.”

Read more:
Volodymyr Zelenskyy hails Ukrainian air force ‘defenders of the sky’, Zaporizhzhia power plant remains under the spotlight – and all live updates

British troops take part in cold weather training with Swedish and Finnish armed forces

The UK is significantly expanding a training programme in Britain to turn potentially tens of thousands of Ukrainian recruits into frontline soldiers to fight Russia. Pic: Ministry of Defence
Image:
Pic: MoD

Mr Wallace has paid four visits to check up on the training, including most recently on Friday.

Advanced training

A defence source said this was an indication that while “many politicians have been distracted by a summer leadership competition”, the defence secretary “only cares about keeping Ukrainians in their fight for national survival”.

If, as expected, Liz Truss becomes prime minister, Mr Wallace is tipped to retain his job as defence secretary.

Other countries taking part in the training programme to help Ukraine comprise Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Lithuania.

The main course on offer is based on the UK’s basic infantry training. It includes weapons-handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft and patrol tactics.

The extra two weeks will allow for more advanced training, such as trench and urban warfare, vehicle-mounted operations, and battlefield exercises in simulated combat environments.

The training is being conducted by elements from the British Army’s 11 Security Force Assistance Brigade and the RAF Regiment, alongside international instructors.

Rail passengers facing more disruption as train drivers announce strike on busy weekend | UK News

Rail passengers are facing a fresh wave of disruption as train drivers from several companies have announced another strike over a long-running dispute about pay and working conditions.

The 24-hour walkout on Saturday 13 August will coincide with a busy weekend of football, with Premier League games in Manchester, London, Birmingham and Brighton likely to be affected.

Organised by members of the Aslef union, the strike will affect services run by Arriva Rail London, Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Timetables are due to be published on 9 August, but passengers are being advised to follow the latest travel advice, check before they set off and allow extra time for their journey.

While companies not involved in the strike will continue running trains, these are expected to be busier than normal.

The industrial action will also affect services running on the morning of Sunday 14 August, with those planning to travel told to consider starting their journey later in the day.

There have been several strikes held so far this year, with unions calling for a pay increase due to the rising cost of living and raising concerns around job security and working conditions.

Earlier this summer, an RMT walkout became the largest British rail strike in 30 years.

In recent weeks, extensive talks have been held over the issues, but the dispute remains unsolved.

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Stationary trains at London stations

‘We must modernise and adapt’

Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, Steve Montgomery, said: “We’re really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has, for the second time in as many weeks, decided to impose yet more uncertainty for passengers and businesses by disrupting passengers’ weekend plans.

“Like any service or business, things do not just stand still, and we must move with the times. We want to give our people a pay rise, as we know everyone is feeling the pinch due to the cost of living rises.”

He added that further strikes will see people “out of pocket” and urged leaders of Aslef to come forward and reach a deal that is “fair to staff and taxpayers”.

“I will reiterate what I’ve previously said – I am ready and willing to talk to the leadership of Aslef today, tomorrow or indeed any time next week,” Mr Montgomery said.

“They should call off next week’s action and talk to us instead. What our passengers and our staff expect is for us to talk and work out a way through this.”

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Can people get a refund?

Passengers with advance, off-peak or anytime tickets affected by the strike can use their ticket either on the day before the date it was intended to be used, or up until 16 August.

They can also change their tickets to travel on an alternate date.

If their train is cancelled or rescheduled, they are able to get a refund.

Read more:
What you need to know as rail strikes continue
Labour leader has ‘not lost control of his MPs’

Are there any more strikes planned?

Two further days of strikes have already been announced, with members of the RMT at Network Rail and 14 train operators planning to walk out on 18 and 20 August.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has also agreed to strike at seven train operating companies on the same days.

This will affect services run by Avanti West Coast, c2c, East Midlands Railway, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway, LNER, and Southeastern.

London Underground workers are also set to strike on 19 August.