According to an article published in the Royal Navy’s official magazine, the Globe and Laurel, Lieutenant General Robert Magowan confirmed that 350 marines were deployed to Ukraine for two separate missions since January – the first prior to the invasion and the second in April.
The first mission was to evacuate British diplomatic staff across the border to Poland prior to the invasion. The second mission occurred in April after Russian troops withdrew from the area around Kyiv. According to the article, Magowan said, “In April, they returned into the country to re-establish the diplomatic mission, providing protection to critical personnel.” Magowan added, “During both phases, the commandos supported other discreet operations in a hugely sensitive environment and with a high level of political and military risk.”
While the UK Defense Ministry had previously confirmed that soldiers were sent to protect diplomats at the embassy, Magowan’s commentary provided the most detail that has been released since the missions occurred. Although Magowan did not specify what the “other” missions were, he is the first British official to confirm that special operations had taken place in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
When the Royal Navy was questioned about Magowan’s remarks, a spokesperson only said that Marines were “deployed to Ukraine to support the UK’s diplomatic presence” and said that “they served no combat function.”
The Marine unit deployed for both missions was the 45 Commando unit which it is now known allegedly specializes in “Arctic warfare,” according to the Times, and had previously taken part in the Falklands conflict and the U.S. invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, troops from 45 Commando were in Norway conducting winter military exercises when they were called in to assist with evacuations from Ukraine to Poland of embassy staff and diplomats.
Magowan also confirmed that Royal Marines had previously trained Ukrainian troops in other countries adding that the Marines have been “heavily involved” in the training and that they are now planning to train “Ukraine marines.”
While British military trainers were pulled out of Ukraine earlier this year to avoid conflicts after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, special forces have since resumed training efforts.