What is the current situation in Ukraine?

In 2014, Russia seized and then annexed the southern Crimea peninsula from Ukraine, whilst alleged Russian-backed separatists captured large parts of Ukraine’s two eastern regions (known as the Donbas). As of December 2021, the conflict in the east of the country continues with more than 13,000 people reported to have died.

The Ukrainian Government has warned that Russia could invade the country in the next few months. In a statement to the Ukrainian Parliament on 3 December 2021, the country’s defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said the “most likely time to reach readiness for escalation will be the end of January [2022]”. In the same month, a US intelligence document obtained by the Washington Post revealed that Russia was planning a “multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops”.

On 8 December 2021, James Heappey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence (MOD), stated that the Government had “significant concerns” about “Russia’s aggressive pattern of military build-ups on Ukraine’s border and in illegally-annexed Crimea”. He also said that the Government “remain[ed] clear” that “Russia’s threatening and destabilising behaviour” was “unacceptable and will have costs”.

What recent military assistance has the UK provided to Ukraine?

In recent years, the United Kingdom has increased its support towards Ukraine’s military. This includes the provision of training of Ukrainian military personnel and improvements to Ukraine’s naval capabilities.

Military training

In 2015, the UK launched Operation Orbital. It is a non-lethal training and capacity building operation that provides training to the Ukrainian armed forces. This included medical, logistics, infantry, and intelligence capacity-building training. The then Conservative Government announced that approximately 75 UK service personnel would be involved. In November 2019, the MOD announced that the training operation would be extended by three years to March 2023.

In August 2020, the Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, announced that the UK would lead a multinational Maritime Training Initiative for the Ukrainian navy, “boosting their ability to combat threats in the Black Sea”. In a press release detailing the announcement, the MOD said that:

As well as bringing skills, knowledge and expertise to the Ukrainian navy, the Maritime Training Initiative will empower the Ukrainian navy to work even more closely alongside international partners in defence of the Black Sea region.

During a debate in the House of Commons on Ukraine on 8 December 2021, the Government noted that the UK’s armed forces had trained more than 20,000 military personnel as part of its Operation Orbital and the Maritime Training Initiative. In the debate, the Minister for Asia, Amanda Milling, stated that the training “is defensive, is designed to save lives, focusing on the skills for which the Ukrainians have sought our assistance, and is delivered at the point of need”.

International Crimea Platform

On a visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in August 2021, the Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin, reaffirmed the UK’s security commitment to the country. As part of this, Mr Quin participated in the inaugural International Crimea Platform (ICP) which aims to:

  • increase the effectiveness of the international response to the “ongoing occupation of Crimea and mounting security threats”;
  • respond to growing security threats;
  • increase international pressure on Russia;
  • prevent further human rights violations and “protect victims of the occupation regime”; and
  • achieve its main goal—“de-occupation of Crimea and its peaceful return to Ukraine”.

Commenting on the ICP, Jeremy Quin said that:

The launch of the ICP signifies the global community’s recognition of the hugely important need to keep pressing for the reintegration of Crimea as part of Ukraine which the UK fully supports.

Strengthening naval capabilities

The UK Government has sought to strengthen Ukraine’s naval capabilities. In June 2021, the UK and Ukrainian governments signed a memorandum of implementation (MOI) to support the enhancement of Ukraine’s naval capabilities through a series of projects. This would include the:

  • delivery of new naval platforms and shipborne weaponry;
  • training of Ukrainian naval personnel;
  • creation of new naval bases; and
  • purchase of two Sandown class mine countermeasure vessels.

The UK Government noted that funding for these projects would be made available by UK Export Finance (UKEF), with contractual work to implement the projects beginning in that month. Signing the MOI on behalf of the UK Government, Jeremy Quin said:

The UK and Ukraine have a close defence relationship, and we continue to strengthen this partnership to help deter shared threats.

On 22 November 2021, the UK and Ukraine signed a Framework Agreement on Official Credit Support for the Development of the Capabilities of the Ukrainian Navy (the Credit Support Agreement).

What would the framework do?

The Credit Support Agreement would provide a framework for a £1.7 billion loan package to enable Ukraine to purchase two British minesweeper vessels and for specified UK contractors to work with Ukraine to build eight missile ships, a frigate and to retrofit UK weapons systems to existing Ukrainian naval vessels. Additionally, the agreement includes consultancy and technical support for the building of naval infrastructure, including the delivery of equipment.

In the agreement’s explanatory memorandum, the Government further detailed the purpose of the agreement:

Ukraine is a country with which we share common security interests. The Ukrainian Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme (UNCEP) will allow Ukraine to help deter regional threats while offering real benefits to UK industry, including our shipbuilding sector, by supporting highly-skilled jobs for UK workers. Ukraine has requested support for the financing of UNCEP and in response UKEF has internal approval (subject to documentation) for a package of support worth £1.7 billion (or £1.925 billion if UKEF’s support fee is financed) plus interest to finance UNCEP.

As part of the agreement, deadlines for granting credit for each contract must be allocated no later than 31 December 2024. Although deadlines may only be extended in “exceptional circumstances” through an exchange of letters.

The agreement also contained commitments from both the UK and Ukrainian governments to tackle corruption in international commercial transactions, with the UK able to refuse payment to Ukraine where commitments are breached. Article 8 of the agreement states that:

In the event of failure to comply with the undertakings set out in this article, the UK party reserves the right to refuse to allocate any relevant contract and/or to suspend disbursements of the credit to the borrower in relation to the relevant contract.

In the explanatory memorandum, the Government stated that a bilateral agreement was “necessary” because standard Ukrainian procurement rules would not have allowed the country to make a “single source contract award” and would not have allowed a certain percentage of goods and services to originate from the UK.

The agreement will enter into force on the day that both countries complete their domestic ratification procedures. No domestic legislation is required in the UK to bring the treaty into force.

What parliamentary scrutiny has it received?

The House of Lords International Agreements Committee considered the Credit Support Agreement on 8 December 2021. In its report, the committee stated that the Credit Support Agreement represented an “important sign of support” for Ukraine. The committee also suggested that given the “heightened risks of conflict” between Ukraine and Russia, the agreement should be “considered in the context of the UK and NATO’s commitments to Ukraine”. Therefore, the committee called on the Government to use the occasion of a parliamentary debate to “set out its current approach with its allies to countering any threats to Ukraine’s territory and sovereignty”, which was in line with current Government policy. Concluding, the committee reported the agreement to the special attention of the House of Lords on the grounds that it was “politically important” and that it raised “issues of public policy” that the House may wish to debate.


Before the Credit Support Agreement can enter into force, it must be ratified by both countries. Under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, a treaty must be laid before Parliament before it is ratified. Once a treaty is laid before Parliament, both Houses have 21 sitting days to review and object, should they wish, to the treaty. If, within the 21 sitting days, either House passes a motion against ratification, the Government must lay a statement before Parliament explaining its justification for ratifying the treaty. If the House of Commons passes a motion against ratification, another 21-day period is triggered. In theory, this process could delay ratification indefinitely, with the passing of further motions. The House of Lords does not have the power to keep delaying ratification.

On 5 January 2022, the House of Lords is due to debate the agreement. The objection period ends on 11 January 2022.

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