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British troops sent to support Ukraine’s forces

27 February 2015


Mourning the "Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred": church leaders led prayers last Sun­­­day for the people, mostly young, who were killed in Independence Square during pro-European demonstrations a year ago

Mourning the "Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred": church leaders led prayers last Sun­­­day for the people, mostly young, who were killed in Independen...

BRITISH troops will be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks to "provide advice and a range of training, from tactical intelligence to logistics, to medical care", the Prime Minister told MPs on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Liaison Committee, which brings together the chairs of the various House of Commons Select Committees, David Cameron said that the UK would "be developing an infantry-training programme with Ukraine to improve the durability of their forces."

But he emphasised that British service personnel would be "well away from the area of conflict", and that "we don't believe fundamentally there is some military solution to this issue."

He said that "there needs to be a diplomatic solution, which should be enabled by sanctions and pressure and the economic weight of Europe and America."

Later, the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said that, "in light of continued Russian-backed aggression, the UK is committed to providing additional non-lethal support to Ukraine to help them deal with the pressures they are facing."

He said that the deployment of about 75 personnel "builds upon the work that we have already undertaken through NATO and bilaterally. This will help the Ukrainian Armed Forces develop and maintain the capacity and resilience that they need."

Last week, a ceasefire agreed between the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, with the help of French and German leaders in Minsk, took limited effect in the disputed eastern regions of Ukraine.

Pro-Russian separatists continued fighting through the ceasefire deadline to seize the strategically important town of Debaltseve, with its regional transport hub. On Tuesday, the separatists showed reporters that they had begun to pull back their heavy weapons, as part of the ceasefire agreement; but Ukrainian leaders in Kiev said that this was a cover for an advance on the port town of Mariupol.

The separatist Donetsk People's Republic group said this week that they had taken the towns of Pishtevik and Pavlopol inside the agreed buffer-zone and close to the north of Mariupol.

In Rome, Pope Francis appealed to "all the interested parties" to "apply the agreements reached by mutual accord and . . . be respectful toward the principle of international legality".

Speaking to bishops from the Greek and Latin-Rite Catholic Churches in Ukraine, who were visiting Rome for their quinquennial ad limina visit, the Pope said: "I recognise the historical events that have marked your land and are still present in the collective memory. They deal with questions that have a partially political base, and to which you are not called to give a direct response; but they are also socio-cultural realities and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution."

He described the differences between the Greek and Latin Catholic Churches in Ukraine as "painful": "There is need of a doctor - and this is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and with your whole hearts."

The Pope urged the bishops to "unite your forces and support one another", and to use the current conflict as "a motive of sharing and unity" so that they would "be able to carry forward the ecumenical commitment with faith and patience, so that unity and co-operation between all Christians may grow".

On Sunday, the first anniversary of the Independence Square massacre was marked with a "March of Dignity" to commemorate the people who were killed during the pro-European demonstrations (News, 28 February 2014).

The event was attended by government and diplomatic leaders, and members of the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.

Patriarch Filaret of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Kiev Patriarchate, Bishop Vladimir Cherpak of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church led prayers for the repose of the souls of those killed during last year's demonstrations; and the funeral prayer was sung by students of the Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy.

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