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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said Britain will provide naval training to Ukrainian allies in order to defend against the growing threat of Russia in the Black Sea. Military personnel will lead a new Maritime Training Initiative along with security assistance support provided by the US.

In a statement, the MoD said: “This will further enhance Ukraine’s capabilities and situational awareness in the maritime domain to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the programme would be vital in the battle against Russian-backed separatists.

Mr Wallace also stressed the need for increased collaboration with NATO and allied forces around the world.

The Defence Secretary confirmed the plans following a trip to Ukraine on Monday.

In Kiev, he discussed issues of regional security with his counterpart Andriy Taran and Ukrainian commander-in-chief Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak.

Mr Wallace said: “We have already assisted thousands of Ukrainian personnel in a plethora of skills ranging from basic first aid to operational planning.

“All of which defends their territorial integrity from Russian-backed separatists.

“Now, the Maritime Training Initiative will enable even closer collaboration with the NATO Alliance and Armed Forces around the world.

“And allows us to build on Ukraine’s new NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner status.”

Troops from the UK will be sent to eastern Europe as early as the Autumn to begin the mission.

The training will be undertaken by naval personnel from around the world including Sweden, Canada and Denmark.

They will be taught vital combat roles such as navigation, operational planning, military diving, sea surveillance, fire-fighting and damage control.

There has been unrest in the region ever since the war broke out between Ukrainian and Russian forces in 2014.

Six years ago, Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and backed a rebellion in the east.

As a result, Ukraine lost much of its naval capacity during the initial conflict.

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The threat of Russian forces at sea was showcased this morning after the Royal Navy confirmed it had escorted nine Russian vessels sailing near UK waters.

Commanding Officer of the frigate HMS Westminster said: “The Royal Navy demonstrated its flexibility in being able to shadow the Russian Navy units.

“While the Russian Navy operated in a safe and professional manner, HMS Westminster combined with NATO-allied units across the North Sea and Baltic Sea to escort them throughout.”

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