UK to give Ukraine underwater mine-clearing drones and training | Ukraine

The UK is giving underwater drones to Ukraine and training Ukrainian personnel in Britain to use them to clear their coastline of mines, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

Dozens of Ukrainian personnel will be taught to use the autonomous minehunting vehicles by the Royal Navy and US partners over the coming months, with some already commencing their training.

Six autonomous minehunting vehicles are being sent to search for Russian mines in the waters off its coast. Three vehicles are due to be sent from UK stocks while another three will be bought from industry.

The lightweight autonomous vehicles can be used in shallow coastal environments and are designed to operate at depths of up to 100 metres to detect, locate and identify mines through the use of a series of sensors.

The move comes as Russia has been weaponising food through blockading the country’s Black Sea ports to prevent exports while destroying Ukrainian agriculture, which has affected the world’s poorest people as food prices increase.

Only a few ships carrying grain have been able to leave Ukraine after a deal brokered by the UN in July which would allow food exports. However, attempts to get food out of the country have continued to be disrupted by sea mines placed by Russian forces along Ukraine’s coast.

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “Russia’s cynical attempts to hold the world’s food supply to ransom must not be allowed to succeed.

“This vital equipment and training will help Ukraine make their waters safe, helping to smooth the flow of grain to the rest of the world and supporting the armed forces of Ukraine as they look to defend their coastline and ports.”

The Royal Navy’s Diving & Threat Exploitation Group will work with the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet as it conducts the three-week training courses required to operate the lightweight autonomous vehicles.

The DTEG will conduct training at sea to operate the vessels and interpret the data they send back to identify mock mines.

Admiral Sir Ben Key, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “Through the expert skills being taught here, our Ukrainian allies will be able to clear their own waters of mines. These weapons target shipping indiscriminately, but particularly affect civilian traffic and trade and have had a devastating impact on freedom of navigation in the Black Sea.

“This training is another powerful demonstration of the UK’s ongoing commitment to Ukraine in their fight to defend their country and repel Russian aggression.”

The Royal Navy is also training Ukrainian sailors to operate Sandown Class Minehunter vessels.

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