UK special forces secretly operated in Ukraine

8:34 17.12.2023 •

Special forces operators of UK were embedded with Ukrainian troops in the early days of the conflict, Declassified UK reported, citing the newly published book by Polish journalist Zbigniew Parafianowicz. The author is Ukraine correspondent for a daily newspaper in Warsaw and had access to political insiders and senior officials. He quotes an unnamed Polish government minister who claims to have run into British commandos in mid-March 2022 as he was travelling between Kyiv and the city of Zhytomyr.

According to Declassified UK, at one point, a Polish government minister – who is not named – told Parafianowicz about a time in March 2022 when he was traveling from Kiev to Zhitomir.

“It was a time when the Russians were still standing in Bucha, and the route was a gray zone. It was possible to run into Russians. We passed the last checkpoint. The Ukrainians told us that we continue at our own risk,” the unnamed minister reportedly said. “Well, and who did we meet next? Ukrainian soldiers and… British special forces. Uniformed. With weapons. They moved with the Ukrainians in trucks and off-road vehicles with artillery radars. They were tracking targets. They were learning about this war. Such radar tracks where mortar or rocket shells fall and are fired.”

According to Parafianowicz’s source, the British and the Ukrainians worked together, driving around the countryside with artillery tracking radars, “learning about this war.”

The same official also said that Polish special forces based in Lublin had been in Brovary, a suburb of Kiev, “on the first day” of the hostilities. Poles – along with Brits and Americans – had been training the Ukrainian special forces since 2014, the minister said.

According to Parafianowicz, Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) had trained Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s security detail as well.

In Poland at War, Parafianowicz states that President Zelensky’s bodyguards were trained by Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS). He also quotes the unnamed Polish minister as saying: “On the first day of the war, we realized that there were [Polish] commandos – from the Lubliniec Military Commando Unit – in Brovary near Kyiv.

“They, together with the Americans and the British, had been building special forces for the Ukrainians since 2014.”

Their presence caused concern that NATO soldiers could be caught up in the invasion, prompting various officials to request their withdrawal.

Another source, identified only as a high-ranking Polish officer, said that these commandos did not return to Poland, but “went in the opposite direction” – to Kharkov and parts of Donbass controlled by Ukrainians.

 “They cooperated with the British,” the officer said. “Later, we worked out a formula for our presence in Ukraine … we were simply sent on paid leave. Politicians pretended not to see this.”

According to Declassified, some of these Polish commandos may have trained members of the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ movement – specifically the ‘Kraken’ unit based in Kharkov – in the use of British-supplied NLAW rocket launchers. Social media posts identified them only as “instructors from NATO countries.”

Parafianowicz’s book appears to confirm previous media reports about NATO commandos fighting alongside Ukrainian troops.

In April 2022, the French daily Le Figaro claimed that SAS and Delta Force operators had waged a “secret war” on behalf of Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s military operation.

In mid-April 2022, The Times reported: “British special forces have trained local troops in Kyiv for the first time since the war with Russia began”.

It said two Ukrainian battalions had received instruction over the previous fortnight in the use of “NLAWs, British-supplied anti-tank missiles that were delivered in February as the invasion was beginning.”

Shortly after those revelations, The Times said a number of SAS operators had returned to Ukraine to teach Kiev’s soldiers how to operate British-made anti-tank rockets.

A year later, Declassified revealed that 50 elite British troops were in Ukraine, citing a leaked U.S. intelligence file. The UK contingent was three times larger than any other ally. Among those who claimed to have been trained by UK special forces was Daniil Lyashuk, who had previously been convicted of torture by a Ukrainian court.

Last December, a British military publication admitted that up to 300 Royal Marines had been deployed to Ukraine for “discrete operations.”

Classified Pentagon documents that were leaked in April this year also showed at least 50 British special forces operators were still active in Ukraine as of March.

Allegation of UK special forces in Ukraine comes amid attempts to suppress report of SAS deployment to Israel.

The Polish journalist’s findings add to evidence that UK soldiers were secretly deployed to the warzone without parliament being told, and took part in an operation – not just training.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has only confirmed that soldiers have been in Ukraine since the invasion to protect the British embassy.

Phil Miller, Declassified UK’s chief reporter, and author of Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes, said in the report:

Declassified understands separately that members of the Parachute Regiment were secretly deployed to Kyiv this year.

Asked to comment on the book’s claims, an UK MoD spokesperson told Declassified: “It is the longstanding policy of successive governments not to comment on speculation about Special Forces,” referring to a blanket no comment stance that Whitehall has operated since the late 1980s.

Initially these NATO soldiers focused on helping with evacuations, however their presence in Kharkiv is potentially more significant.

Declassified has reported how veterans of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov movement were the first fighters in the city to receive British-supplied NLAWs.

Photos posted on social media showed “instructors from NATO countries” coaching men how to use the rocket launchers. The veterans formed an Azov spin-off unit known as Kraken, led by Konstantin Nemichev, a far-right politician.

Another Polish minister is quoted in the book as saying that on one diplomatic trip to Ukraine, “the Americans asked us to bring their two wounded soldiers from Kyiv. They were there as civilians. But it is known what kind of civilians.

“These two wounded Americans were coming back on the same train that [deputy PM Jarosław] Kaczynski took with [PM Mateusz] Morawiecki. One was missing a leg. Doctors had to amputate it.”

UK special forces are not subject to oversight by any parliamentary committee or the Freedom of Information Act.

A judge-led inquiry is currently investigating allegations the SAS killed 80 civilians and detainees in Afghanistan between 2010-13.

Meanwhile, Whitehall is attempting to suppress media reports that the SAS may deploy to Israel to help rescue British hostages held in Gaza. Government ministers have refused to answer questions about the claims when pressed in parliament by MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Kenny MacAskill.


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