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Ops 18. UK Special Forces Operations: Ukraine

Britain’s Special Forces have been deployed operationally in at least 19 overseas countries in the past decade, new analysis reveals, raising questions over the degree of transparency and democratic consent these shadowy units operate under. The countries where there have been active operations are: Algeria, Estonia, France, Iran/Oman (Strait of Hormuz), Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mediterranean (Cyprus), Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.

This section outlines the extent of UKSF’s operations in Ukraine.

2021

April: A “small team of UK special forces” was deployed to Ukraine in an apparent intelligence-gathering mission (Mirror)

This small SAS team has concluded that Russia was conducting a series of ceasefire violations across the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine (Express)

June: In a press release, the British Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine stated that the UK Minister for Defence Procurement and Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine “observed joint training activity of Ukrainian, UK and US Special forces”. This would suggest that there is a training operation of UK special forces in Ukraine (UK Defence Journal)

2022

April: Russia announced there were “looking into a Russian media report alleging that the SAS had been sent to the Lviv region in Western Ukraine”. (Al Jazeera)

The Investigative Committee said it would look at whether – according to the report – the SAS had been sent in to “assist the Ukrainian special services in organising sabotage on the territory of Ukraine”. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Russian security source as saying about 20 members of the SAS had been deployed. (Sky News)

June: Group of ex-SAS troopers are reported to be in Ukraine and have killed “killed up to 20 Russian generals and 15 of the feared Wagner mercenaries”. Some are believed to have served in L Detachment – an SAS reserve unit. It is understood they were recruited via a Whatsapp group for ex-members of the Hereford-based regiment. The British have also helped to train some Ukrainian troops in ambush methods. (Daily Star)

2023

April: Leaked US military documents suggest that the UK deployed 50 special forces personnel, including the SAS, to Ukraine. This would account for more than half of the Western special forces present in the country between February and March 2023. The documents have not been verified and the activities of the special forces are unclear. The UK government has not confirmed the deployment of special forces in Ukraine since the beginning of the war. The Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the leak, but questioned its accuracy. The leaked documents, part of a larger set of classified files, were posted on Discord and have been circulating on social media and online forums. Some of the files appear to have been doctored, but US officials acknowledge many are genuine. (The Guardian)