The UK Ministry of Defence Responds on The Training Programme for Ukrainians

By Nina Cross,

from The Indicter editorial team.

In our first article we addressed the Johnson government’s programme for the military training of Ukrainian new recruits in the UK.  We expressed our concern that those being sent back to Ukraine to fight on the frontlines against Russian artillery were being fast-tracked to a high probability death.  We questioned the government’s claim that “The training will give volunteer recruits with little to no military experience the skills to be effective in frontline combat.”

How would the content of the training equip new recruits to face the Russian artillery and rockets that have already claimed huge numbers of professional Ukrainian soldiers?  What evidence exists to support the British government’s claim that the new recruits are volunteers and have not been coerced into the training?

We asked the British Ministry of Defence these and other questions regarding the training and the treatment of Ukrainians brought to the UK.  The Freedom of Information questions and answers are set out as follows:

Question 1: Please identify the documentation or procedure that exists to demonstrate if the Ukrainian individuals arriving for training in the UK entered the Ukrainian military on a voluntary basis and not through conscription.

Answer:  We can confirm that no documentation or procedure exists for assessing the status of individuals sent to the UK by the Ukrainian Military.

Question 2:  Please identify the documentation or procedure that exists to demonstrate that the Ukrainian individuals arriving for training in the UK are doing so on a voluntary basis.

Answer:  We can confirm that no documentation or procedure exists for assessing the status of individuals sent to the UK by the Ukrainian Military.

Question 3: Please identify any policy or documentation that would prevent Ukrainian individuals arriving for military training in the UK from applying for asylum.

Answer: This would contravene the 1954 Refugee Convention of which the UK is a signatory, as such no UK policy exists which would prevent individuals applying for asylum.

Question 4: Please identify if the movements of the Ukrainian individuals will be restricted to the military basis designated for training or whether they will have the right or ability of any free movement.

Answer: The Ukrainian personnel are to remain in a camp or on designated exercise areas throughout the training package.

Question 5: What procedures, if any, will be carried out by the British authorities to identify where the Ukrainian individuals are sent following their training in the UK and what happens to these individuals once they are sent back to Ukraine?

Answer: The UK does not track where individuals are sent once they have returned to the Ukrainian Military’s Duty of Care.

Question 6: Is there any policy or document showing that only Ukrainian men will be trained in the UK or does the training include Ukrainian women?

Answer: There is no UK policy determining the gender requirements of individuals sent to the UK by the Ukrainian military for training.

Why is there no transparency around recruitment?

There is no documentation or procedure to determine the way the Ukrainians have been recruited – either coercively, through conscription or other.  Yet the British government claims that the Ukrainians have volunteered.  Clearly no steps have been taken to determine how the individuals have been treated by the Ukrainian authorities, despite the fact the British government is aware of claims that individuals have been forced into military service:

“4.7.4 On 16 March 2022, International Crisis Group (ICG) reported:

‘…the ins and outs of travel bans and mobilisation require more transparent communication by the army. Whether and under what circumstances men can be involuntarily enlisted remains the subject of rumour. For instance, in the western border town of Uzhgorod, stories circulate that recruiters are seeking out single men staying at hotels. At a press conference on 15 March, the army’s chief recruiter had to deny accusations that internally displaced men were targeted more often than locals. Even if one has sorted out the rules, the soldiers operating some fifteen military checkpoints now dotting the road from Kyiv to the western border may not agree with one’s interpretation. A Kyiv man who drove his family to safety reported that every checkpoint not only creates its own traffic jam, but also comes with the fear of ending up on a conscription list’.”

How is it that the British authorities have therefore failed to provide transparency over this issue yet claim with authority that the Ukrainians arriving in the UK are doing so on a voluntary basis?  It can be assumed that the British government and military heads are taking the word of the Ukrainian authorities that each recruit is a willing volunteer.  It is also possible, given this training programme is British, that the decision to exclude any methods of determining the experience of individual recruits was deliberate and made by the British, in order to avoid any embarrassing revelations about Ukrainian recruitment processes.

Why the words “effective in frontline combat” amount to propaganda

There is no procedure to track the fate of the Ukrainians trained in the UK or to evaluate the effectiveness of the UK training programme.  How can the government claim a few weeks of basic training by the UK military will make new recruits  “effective in frontline combat”?  Just how ‘combat-ready’ are they if 80% of them die?  What means of measuring such effectiveness exist?  There are none.    “Effective” therefore is meaningless, it could mean ‘recklessly needlessly killed or maimed’.  It could mean ready to die for NATO or Boris Johnson’s geopolitical designs.

And just like that the British government publishes guidance on deserters seeking asylum in Britain

The Ukrainian personnel are to remain in a camp or on designated exercise areas throughout the training package.   There is therefore no opportunity for them to mix with British civilians, to communicate or describe their route to recruitment and training in the UK.   If they cannot move, they cannot pass on their stories. 

However, on the plus side the Ministry of Defence claim that it is against the Refugee Convention to exclude Ukrainian recruits from requesting asylum, although this is in reference to application only.  On 28  July, two weeks after the first batch of Ukrainians arrived for training in the UK, the British government published new immigration guidance on processing asylum applications based on military service.  The policy was clearly written to address military personnel refusing to fight and focuses on evasion and desertion.   In the guidance the government cites a tribunal which found a 10 year prison sentence was not disproportionate for desertion – a search found no such detailed reference to desertion in the context of immigration existing in the UK’s prior immigration rules.

In order for a punishment to be considered disproportionately harsh or severe it would need to be of a particularly serious nature. Page 12 of 14 Published for Home Office staff on 28 July 2022 Long prison sentences will not normally be enough to engage the protection of the Convention. The tribunal found in Foughali that a substantial period of imprisonment (2-10 years in this particular case) was not disproportionate in itself for refusing to perform military service.”

The question is – when was this policy guidance prepared?  It was not in place prior to the first batch of trainees.  Was the Home Office inundated with requests for asylum it was not expecting or was the policy already cynically being put together to catch Ukrainians hoping to jump off the NATO ghost train? 

The real ghosts of Kiev

With an unknown untraceable route into the military and an unknown, untraceable fate – these are the real ghosts of Kiev – new recruits who pass through the UK, the NATO ghost train en route to high probability death from Russian artillery and rockets. The UK will bring you here, isolate you, show you how to hold a gun, then pack you off to the frontlines.  If you try to jump off the ghost train while in the UK, the Home Office will paint you as a deserter and consider a 10 year stretch in a Ukrainian cell not too harsh a punishment for wasting British taxes, despite the fact that its NATO ally, Denmark, found in its prison inspection last year that Ukrainian authorities have used torture in their prisons, a fact cited on the British government’s own website.

Ukrainian authorities have used torture and other forms of ill-treatment during interrogation and in the penitentiary institutions, albeit not widespread. However, the use of such methods was more prevalent in the past and the authorities have been fighting this practice in the past 25 years with some success, but impunity among Ukrainian prison staff remains widespread.”

Such is the cynical exploitation of Ukrainian life by the Johnson government.  Liz Truss, likely to take over as PM, is set to continue Johnson’s policies, and will support the Ukrainian cannon fodder factory.  No humanity or reasoned judgement will prevail under Truss who, as Foreign Secretary, encouraged the idea  that her own untrained citizens could risk their lives and go off to fight in Ukraine against Russian forces.   Saving Ukrainian life through peaceful and diplomatic means appears to be a fantastical notion for the British political and military elite as they drive the NATO ghost train over Ukrainian flesh and bones.