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Operation INTERFLEX ~ UK Training of Ukrainian Recruits

Library image, from June 2023, of members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine learning vital life-saving battlefield skills in the first combat medical training course of its kind to be delivered by the British Army and its international partners [Crown Copyright: Cpl Tim Hammond]

30,000 Ukrainian recruits have been trained in the largest UK military training effort on British soil since the Second World War ~ Operation INTERFLEX.

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Press Release, Whitehall, 10 November 2023: More than 30,000 ordinary Ukrainian men and women have trained to become soldiers under the largest military training programme of its kind on British soil since the Second World War.

Ahead of schedule, the UK-led Op INTERFLEX has reached the milestone of 30,000 recruits trained in the UK since June 2022 – taking the total number of trained Ukrainian soldiers to more than 52,000 since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The training was set up in the UK after Op ORBITAL, the British Army’s long term training programme in Ukraine, had to be paused when Russia launched its full-scale invasion against Ukraine in February 2022. Op INTERFLEX launched in June 2022 and had the target of training 30,000 troops by the end of 2023.

Delivered in locations throughout the UK, the world-leading programme takes volunteer recruits who have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine with little to no previous military experience and teaches them the skills required to survive and be effective in frontline combat. The training allows Ukraine’s forces to accelerate their deployments, rebuild their forces, and scale-up their resistance as they continue to defend their nation’s sovereignty against Russian invaders.

After launching last summer, a number of international partner forces joined the programme, providing vital experience, training and insight into frontline combat. These countries include Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Australia. And today, NATO ally Romania has also confirmed its involvement, taking the total number of partner nations to ten.

The course is delivered over a minimum period of five weeks and includes weapons handling, battlefield first aid, Law of Armed Conflict training, patrol tactics and rural environment training. During the past 12 months, the UK’s wider package of support has also evolved to include upskilling Ukrainian Marines, with British Commandos training Ukraine’s forces in small boat amphibious operations, as well as mine-clearance training by the Royal Engineers, trauma response training and even Army chaplaincy support for Ukrainian padres.

The Prime Minister and President Zelenskyy visited Ukrainian forces training in the UK in February. The leaders heard, first-hand, how the training the Ukrainian soldiers were receiving on British Challenger 2 tanks would give them the upper hand on the battlefield and allow them to push back Russian forces.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I am incredibly proud of all the British and Ukrainian soldiers, sailors, airmen and women involved in this major undertaking – their dedication and professionalism today is ensuring peace for our continent in the future.

“Op INTERFLEX has changed the equation of this war, harnessing Ukraine’s spirit, courage and determination, and matching it with global military expertise.

“The crucial contribution of our international partners to this programme reinforces the global support for Ukraine and underlines our united belief that Ukraine can and will win this war.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Op INTERFLEX’s size and ambition is unrivalled, the programme is a key example of how the UK can help galvanise the international community into supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“I’m delighted we will exceed the target for this year and thank the UK trainers and our international partners who have worked night and day to reach the milestone ahead of schedule. I also pay tribute to the determination and resilience of the brave Ukrainian recruits that arrive on British shores.

Commander INTERFLEX, Col James Thurstan said: “The UK and international partner forces are working hard to provide Ukrainian recruits with the skillsets needed to defend their sovereign territory.

“We work closely with the Armed Forces of Ukraine to ensure that the capabilities provided to them meet the tactical demands of the conflict as it evolves.”

Head of the Main Department of Doctrine and Training of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Major General Oleksii Taran said: “Ukrainian Defense Forces highly appreciate and are grateful to the United Kingdom, its nation and government for the opportunity to train Ukrainian personnel at British military bases as part of the multinational training Operation INTERFLEX.

“A jointly developed training programme taking into account the Ukrainian experience, professionalism, and discipline of the multinational instructor community. The exceptional thoughtfulness of the logistical and material-technical dimension of the operation ensures the highest standards of both the basic combined military training of the Ukrainian recruits and the training of Ukrainian instructors and mid-level commanders.

“We notice the greater fighting capacity of the servicemen and women of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who successfully completed the INTERFLEX training course, their resilience and ability to engage hard with the enemy under bombardment. They have warfare and basic weapon handling skills, are trained to conduct combat operations in trenches and urban areas, have basic military medical training according to international protocols, and are knowledgeable about the Law of Armed Conflict.

“This is undoubtedly an impressive contribution of Great Britain and partner countries in Ukraine’s fight against the unprovoked and criminal Russian aggression.”

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has lost over 50% of the land it initially captured following the February 2022 invasion. As well as the major training programme, the UK continues to support Ukraine to push back Russian forces. As part of the £4.6bn worth of UK military support, we have provided long range missiles, western main battle tanks, and logistical support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This is in addition to the $60bn raised for Ukraine during the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in London in June.

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