Elite special forces from the UK and the US have been present in Ukraine since the beginning of hostilities with Russia in late February, a source in the French intelligence community reportedly told a Le Figaro reporter, last week.
The claim was reported by the newspaper’s senior international correspondent Georges Malbrunot on Saturday, the day when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his surprise visit to Kiev. The British leader was reportedly surrounded by guards from the elite SAS force, though this claim was not officially confirmed.
READ MORE: UK hopes Ukraine will keep fighting – media
“have been present in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, as did [sic] the American Deltas,” Malbrunot tweeted citing a French intelligence source. He added that according to the source Russia was well aware of the “secret war” waged against its troops by foreign commandos. Le Figaro included his report in their updates on Ukraine.
The UK and the US have been among the most active military supporters of Kiev. Johnson reportedly personally urged his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to keep on fighting against Russia and not settle for peace until better terms are offered.
Western pro-fighting consensus was apparently confirmed last week by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said on Saturday that the “war will be won on the battlefield” as he too was visiting Kiev.
British media earlier reported that dozens of
“retired” SAS soldiers had gone or planned to go to Ukraine to contribute their expertise in reconnaissance and anti-tank warfare to Kiev’s cause. Their services were allegedly paid for by “a country in Europe, still to be named, via a private military company” rather than by the British government, according to the UK tabloid the Daily Mirror.
The Russian military reported action against what it described as
“mercenaries” fighting for Ukraine on several occasions. One of the recent instances was on Saturday, just as Johnson and Borell were in Kiev.
The Russian defense ministry said Kiev attempted to use a civilian ship in its latest failed attempt to evacuate high-value personnel from the port city of Mariupol, which saw some of the most intensive fighting during the conflict. The individuals intended for evacuation were identified as leaders of the ultranationalist Azov battalion and foreign mercenaries. There are unconfirmed reports that hundreds of foreign nationals could be blocked in Mariupol along with several thousand Azov troops.
The US and the UK have publicly stated they had no plans to involve their troops in the fighting in Ukraine. Both are major suppliers of arms to Kiev and were training soldiers in Ukraine before the Russian offensive. The experts were reported pulled out of the country in the run-up to the hostilities.
Britain’s Defence Ministry banned active service members from traveling to Ukraine in early March, saying that violating the rule could result in prosecution. Kiev called on volunteers abroad to join the ranks of its newly-created
“foreign legion” after the Russian attack.
Russia launched a large-scale offensive against Ukraine in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two rebel regions by force.
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