UK to send two Royal Navy minehunter ships to Ukraine | World News

‘Minehunter’ ships are vessels specifically designed to allow naval forces to detect and dispose of explosive devices left in the water (Picture: PA)

The UK has pledged to Ukraine two ships specifically designed to hunt down naval mines. 

Announcing the transfer, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the vessels would help Ukraine reopen ‘vital export routes’ otherwise choked by Russia since Putin’s full-scale invasion. 

The Ministry of Defence has also said it will be launching a ‘maritime coalition’ with Norway and other partners to ramp up support for Ukraine’s naval capabilities. 

Mr Shapps did not provide further information on when or how the ships will be able to enter the Black Sea, given access through the Bosphorus is controlled by Turkey – a Nato-member country that nevertheless maintains strong trade relations with the Putin regime. 

News of the transfer came a day after the government also announced £3.7 million in funding to support the documentation and investigation of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, building on a previous pledge of up to £2.5 million. 

Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Shapps was insistent in rejecting any suggestion Western nations are beginning to turn away from the conflict. 

This week, Republican members of US congress voted to block a package that would have included $61bn in additional aid to Ukraine, as part of an effort to push for concessions on border security from the Biden administration.

Mr Shapps said the transferred vessels would help enhance Ukraine’s ‘ability to operate in defending their sovereign waters and bolstering security in the Black Sea’ (Picture: Shutterstock)

Talks on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union are also being held up by Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, himself long considered one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in the bloc. 

Mr Shapps said today: ‘We believe that we simply can’t have an outcome where an autocratic dictator walks into a neighbouring democratic country and then the West gets bored of it. 

‘That is an unacceptable outcome. That is why the UK will keep reminding people that that can’t happen.’

He went on to say the transfer of the minehunter ships ‘marks the beginning of a new dedicated effort by the UK, Norway and our allies to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities’.

Following the outbreak of the conflict last February, the Russian navy blockaded Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea, creating massive obstacles both for naval operations and export industries.

With several million tonnes of grain held up from reaching the global market, a deal was eventually brokered in July 2020 by Turkey and the UN to allow Ukraine to resume safe exports.

But Russia later rescinded on the deal after accusing Ukrainian forces of carrying out deadly drone attacks on Russian ships in Sevastopol, a port city in occupied Crimea.

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