LONDON — Britain is stepping up its military support in Ukraine with an announcement that the U.K. will lead a multinational maritime initiative to train the Ukrainian navy.
During a visit to Ukraine on Aug. 17 British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed the Royal Navy is coordinating a training initiative which also involves Canada, Denmark and Sweden.
The training initiative will be complemented by U.S. security assistance support, said the British Ministry of Defence in a statement.
Other nations are expected to join the naval training effort, said the MoD.
The British-led training will focus on areas such as navigation, operational planning, military diving, sea surveillance, firefighting and damage control.
The Royal Navy also plans to deploy warships to the region later in the year, Wallace said.
Last year the Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan visited Ukraine as part of the NATO’s Sea Breeze exercise. That followed a visit by the survey ship HMS Echo.
The U.K. has been conducting maritime training with the Ukraine for a while. Last year the British announced they were enlarging the scope of a wider military training effort, known as Operation Orbital, by deploying training teams from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines to boost a Ukrainian Navy facing increasing threats from Russia in the Sea of Azov.
The Ukrainians are trying to rebuild a maritime presence following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine lost most of its navy, including 75 percent of personnel, 70 percent of ships and key infrastructure.
It faces a rising number of threats from the Russians in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, and its armed forces continue to counter Moscow-backed separatists in the Donbass region of the country.
Last year the Ukrainian navy unveiled a 15-year, three-stage strategy to rebuild naval capabilities starting with the aim of developing capabilities to establish control over territorial waters and beyond by 2025.
Britain announced late last year it was extending Operation Orbital by three years to March 2023, and despite a COVID-19 enforced suspension, now lifted, the U.K. armed forces have trained over 18,000 Ukrainian military personnel.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.