Australian soldiers deployed to UK to train everyday Ukrainians – like bakers and hairdressers
Australian soldiers will be deployed this week to train everyday Ukrainians – like pastry chefs and taxi drivers – in a bid to bolster Kiev’s defence as Russia’s war rages on.
The contingent of 70 Australian Defence Force personnel will leave Darwin in the coming days as part of Operation Kudu, and will be sent to the United Kingdom.
They will be sent to help the UK-led training program Operation Interflex, which aims to train 20,000 Ukrainian recruits this year.
No ADF personnel will enter Ukraine as part of the program.
The training will focus on “basic infantry tactics” for urban and wooded environments, which Defence Minister Richard Marles said would help Ukrainian recruits gain the skills to defend their homeland.
The Ukrainians to be trained are ordinary citizens, aged between 18-55, who have little to no military experience.
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart said civilians had volunteered to leave their day jobs to join the Ukrainian defensive.
“Among them are pastry chefs, taxi drivers and hairdressers,” he told the Australian personnel in Darwin on Wednesday.
“But the thing in common among this diverse group is their commitment, their courage, their focus, and their stoicism.”
Mr Marles said sending Australian troops was the latest sign of support for Ukraine “in response to Russia’s clear violation of the rules-based order.”
“Operation Kudu builds on Australia’s military support for Ukraine, with the previously gifted Australian-produced Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles proving their worth as highly valuable military vehicles,” Mr Marles said.
As the war approaches the 11-month mark, there are mounting fears among the west that Russia will launch a springtime offensive, prompting the UK, the United States, Germany and France to pledge weapons they’d previously refused to send for fear of provoking Moscow.
Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh said ADF personnel were proud to support the “brave people of Ukraine, and their armed forces”.
“We know that you, our members of the Australian Defence Force, are the most important capability that we have and so you being able to assist those who are fighting for Ukraine, their most important capability – to be able to fight better, to fight smarter – is going to provide a fundamental increase in capability,” he told troops.
“It’s really important that we’re able to do this.
“It’s important that Ukraine is able to take up the fight, not just with more equipment – but with soldiers that are able to take that fight, so that Ukraine can bring an end to this conflict on its own terms.”
To date, Australia has provided Ukraine with about $655 million in support.
Meanwhile on home soil, Australia’s military helicopters will be upgraded.
The army will phase out its European-made Taipan helicopter fleet early, replacing it with 40 American-made blackhawks.
The move will cost an estimated $2.8 billion.
The helicopters would help meet Australia’s strategic needs, help protect its sovereignty, and prove useful during times of disaster relief.
They will be operated out of Oakey, west of Brisbane, and Holsworthy in NSW.