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Britain was pulled closer towards a renewed cold war with Russia when David Cameron announced UK military trainers are to be deployed to help Ukraine forces stave off further Russian backed incursions into sovereign Ukraine territory.
Downing Street said some personnel would be leaving this week as part of the training mission. Initially 30 trainers will be despatched to Kiev with 25 providing advice on medical training, logistics, intelligence analysis and infantry training. A bigger programme of infantry training is expected to follow soon after taking the total number of trainers to 75.
They will not be sent to the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.
The US already has some military training underway.
Cameron’s decision, made to a Commons committee of MPs, is bound to worsen Anglo-Russian relations, but the prime minister, who has been accused of losing influence in Europe and sleepwalking into the conflict over Ukraine, insisted he did not see a military solution to the crisis. He also said he did not support at this stage sending lethal equipment to Kiev, an issue that is still under consideration in Washington.
Cameron said Europe listened to British expertise on how to implement sanctions, and said the level of sanctions “might become materially different” in the future. He held out the possibility of excluding Russia from the Belgian-based international Swift banking payments system, saying there was a logic to such a move if Moscow continued trying to “dismember” Ukraine.