British minehunting ships to bolster Ukrainian Navy as UK launches maritime support initiative

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The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street. CC BY 2.0 DEED

The UK is to lead a new Maritime Capability Coalition alongside Norway, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps confirming the transfer of two Royal Navy minehunter ships to the Ukrainian Navy.

Two Royal Navy minehunter ships are being transferred from the Royal Navy to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) in a move to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to operate at sea.

As the UK and Norway launch a new Maritime Capability Coalition, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps will announce the procurement of two Sandown Class mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) by Ukraine through UK Export Finance today in London.

He will be joined by his Norwegian counterpart to jointly launch the Maritime Capability Coalition. Alongside this new initiative, the Defence Secretary will confirm further details of UK military support to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s economy continues to be impacted by Putin’s blockade in the Black Sea, which has significantly reduced the country’s ability to move vital exports by sea. Strengthening the AFU’s maritime capabilities, in particular countering the threat from Russian sea mines, will help restore Ukraine’s maritime exports.

This builds on the UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Ukraine last month where he welcomed the launch of the new ‘Unity Facility’ between UK company Marsh McLennan and the Ukrainian Government, which will provide affordable shipping insurance for grain and other critical food supplies globally from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, actively support international efforts to alleviate the global food crisis.

The new Maritime Capability Coalition will build the support that the UK, Norway, and others are providing to Ukraine. This will be long term to help Ukraine transform its navy, making it more compatible with western allies, more interoperable with NATO, and bolstering security in the Black Sea.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:                                                    

“These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion.

“This capability boost marks the beginning of a new dedicated effort by the UK, Norway and our allies to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities over the long term, enhancing their ability to operate in defending their sovereign waters and bolstering security in the Black Sea.

“As an island nation with a proud maritime history, the UK and Royal Navy are particularly well-placed to support this endeavour, which will form part of a series of new coalitions formed between allies to ensure an enduring military commitment in support of Ukraine.”

The new maritime coalition will work closely with the Ukrainian Navy and Ministry of Defence to develop a number of capabilities, including the rapid development of a maritime force in the Black Sea, continuing to develop a Ukrainian Marine Corps, and river patrol craft to defend coastal and inland waterways.

Agreed during recent meetings of the 50-nation strong Ukraine Defence Contact Group, it forms part of a series of Capability Coalitions to strengthen Ukraine’s operations in other domains including on land and in the air. 

The UK and Norway, together with other international partners, have already helped train hundreds of Ukrainian marines and aim to build on this work.

The Prime Minister and Defence Secretary have emphasised the UK’s unwavering support for Ukraine, with £4.6bn in military support allocated since Putin launched his full-scale invasion, and more than 52,000 Ukrainian troops trained since Russia first invaded Crimea in 2014.

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