STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT-British Royal Marines conducted high-risk operations in Ukraine in April, Lieutenant General Robert Magowan wrote in the force’s official journal. Before Magowan’s admission, Russia’s claims that NATO troops were active in Ukraine had been dismissed by Western analysts and media.
Members of 45 Commando Group of the Royal Marines left Ukraine in January after evacuating the British embassy in Kiev to Poland. However, some 300 members of the elite unit were sent back into the country in April to reestablish the British mission in Kiev, before going on to conduct “other discreet operations,” Magowan wrote in the force’s magazine, according to a report by The Times on Tuesday.
These operations took place “in a hugely sensitive environment and with a high level of political and military risk,” Magowan, who formerly served as commandant general of the Royal Marines and is now deputy chief of Defense Staff at the Ministry of Defense, stated.
While Magowan did not elaborate on what kind of missions the commandos carried out, his statement marks the first time that the UK has admitted its troops conducted special operations in Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense refused to confirm earlier accounts of British special forces training Ukrainian troops in Kiev in April.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the conflict in Ukraine as one between Russia and the “entire Western military machine,” and claimed in September that there are entire military units in Ukraine “under the de-facto command of Western advisers.”
Putin’s words were rejected by Western media outlets. “There is no evidence of NATO ground forces participating in Ukraine,” Edward Arnold of the Royal United Services Institute think tank told the BBC at the time. “Nor of NATO commanders directing Ukrainian units on the battlefield. There is also a very low likelihood of this happening in the future as Nato seeks to mitigate escalation risks.”
Magowan’s admission proves Arnold incorrect, but the UK is not the only NATO country to acknowledge the presence of its forces in Ukraine. An unnamed Pentagon official told reporters in October that an unspecified number of US troops were inspecting American arms shipments somewhere within Ukraine.