More than 200 British paratroopers have jumped into Ukraine for a joint exercise, as tensions continue between the eastern European country and Russia.
Some 250 soldiers from Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade dropped into the Ternivsky training area where they teamed up with thousands of Ukrainian troops.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the exercise built on the strong relationship developed between the two nations’ armed forces, which provides both countries with “vital experience of deploying rapidly from air to land to counter threats”.
Tensions continue between Russia and Ukraine following the former’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The conflict has killed more than 14,000 people.
Armed forces minister James Heappey said: “Our participation is an important affirmation of our commitment to our defence relationship with Ukraine, our partners in the Black Sea, and our ability to project highly capable troops forward anywhere, and any time, they’re needed.”
Captain Harjot Singh Gill, of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “We all bring something to this exercise – the Ukrainians bring their resolve and courage and we bring our constantly changing tactics and processes.
“Our shared values and the airborne nature of our units brings us closer together.”
The conflict continues in war-torn eastern Ukraine as large-scale protests continue to grip neighbouring Belarus, with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin previously stating he stands ready to send Russian police into the country if the protests turn violent.
The MoD said British troops have trained more than 18,000 members of the armed forces of Ukraine in the five years since the start of the UK’s training mission in the country, Operation Orbital.
The operation, which was launched a year after the Russian annexation of Crimea, is a demonstration of the UK’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty”, the MoD said.
The parachute practice forms part of Exercise Joint Endeavour, the first multinational exercise in Ukraine since the country achieved Nato-enhanced opportunity partner status in June, which will see the country work closely with Nato militaries to share best practice.
Troops parachuted into the country from 600ft from C-130 Hercules transport aircraft which had flown directly from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.