How far is the UK willing to go to protect Ukraine?

Dominic Raab says UK standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Kiev but won’t send more troops to the border

A Ukrainian serviceman
A Ukrainian army soldier on look-out near Donetsk
(Image credit: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images)

Dominic Raab has said that it is “extremely unlikely” that British troops will be sent to the Ukrainian-Russian border as fears mount that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent.

The deputy prime minister told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday that the UK would “support” Ukraine in “defending themselves” and warned of “very serious, severe economic consequences” for the Kremlin in the event of a Russian invasion.

Raab told Phillips that the UK was standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine, but stopped short of committing to sending more British troops to the border, where more than 125,000 Russian troops are reported to be stationed.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

When asked if the UK would send troops in the event of a Russian invasion, Raab replied: “It’s extremely unlikely we would do that but what we can say is we’re already willing and engaging in training programmes to support Ukrainians defending themselves, that’s absolutely right.”

On the Sunday media round, Raab also told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme he thought there was a “very significant risk” of a Russian invasion.

“The world needs to keep its eye on this and be very clear with President Putin that it would not do this cost-free, that there would be a price,” he said.

“A price in terms of the strenuous defence that we would expect the Ukrainians to put up, but also the economic cost through sanctions, which are of course more effective if the international community speaks as one or at least with a broad consensus.”

His remarks came after reports that British intelligence uncovered a plot to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of the government in Ukraine, with the Foreign Office taking the “unusual step” of naming former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev as a “potential Kremlin candidate to take over in Kyiv”, reported ITV.

But the Foreign Office’s claims have been “thrown into confusion” after Murayev told The Observer that he was banned from Russia.

“You’ve made my evening. The British Foreign Office seems confused,” a “laughing” Murayev told the newspaper. “It isn’t very logical. I’m banned from Russia. Not only that but money from my father’s firm there has been confiscated.”

Deterrent forces

The Times reported on Friday that the UK is considering plans to send “hundreds” more troops into neighbouring Nato countries, in order to act as a “deterrent” to Russia, according to defence sources.

Under plans being discussed by the Ministry of Justice, the UK could shore up existing missions in neighbouring countries with more “combat-ready” soldiers able to “deploy at short notice”.

The UK is already leading a “1,200-strong battle group in Estonia”, said the newspaper, “where it has 830 troops, tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery, engineers and air-defence and intelligence assets”.

Another 140 British troops are also stationed in Poland as part of the Forward Presence mission, a Nato-led military deterrent force in central and northern Europe.

Nato member states have reportedly held “high-level talks” on whether to “bolster their presence” in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

According to a defence source: “They [Nato] have asked the question around boosting those [enhanced Forward Presence missions] and the Nato mission in the Baltics. Countries are thinking about what they could do.”

The source added: “If there was a Nato ally about to have Russian troops knocking on their doorstep then they [the force] would be there quickly.”

Around 100 British soldiers, including 30 elite force troops, are already present in Ukraine as part of a training mission intended to teach Ukrainian forces how to use some 2,000 anti-tank missiles sent to the country from the UK, said The Times.

According to i news, the British forces will “be in the country for a short period of time for training only, and will not engage militarily with Russian forces”.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.