The Royal Navy will deploy multi-role hydrographic survey ship HMS Echo to Ukraine next year in response to what the UK defense secretary identified as Russia’s intensifying threats and aggression.
In a meeting with the visiting Ukrainian defense minister General Stepan Poltorak, UK defense secretary Gavin Williamson announced a range of forthcoming deployments and exercises that will see the two countries’ armed forces continue to work together.
One of the announcements made at the meeting included the deployment of HMS Echo to the Black Sea in 2019. Williamson did not specify whether Echo would be operating in the Sea of Azov, but the announcement follows the UK’s call on Russia to stop delaying or preventing access for ships to the Sea of Azov.
The Sea of Azov is shared by Ukraine and Russia under a treaty signed in 2003 which allows civil and military ships of both countries to freely transit. The body of water has emerged as a new point of contention as media reports from earlier this year indicated that Russian navy and coast guard vessels had increased inspections of vessels transiting to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.
“As long as Ukraine faces Russian hostilities, it will find a steadfast partner in the United Kingdom. By continuing to work together, whether through training programs or military exercises, we help Ukraine to stand up for our shared values,” defense secretary Gavin Williamson said.
Williamson also confirmed that, in January and February next year, training teams – made up of personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Army – will deploy to Ukraine as part of the extension to the UK’s military training operation announced by Gavin Williamson on his visit to the country in September. The two sides have also agreed to work on supporting the development of military infrastructure.