UK sends 23-ton war vehicles to Ukraine as Russia 'thwarted' in Crimean land bridge plan

9 April 2022, 10:13 | Updated: 9 April 2022, 10:14

Mastiffs are being sent to Ukraine which is now facing a focused Russian operation in its east
Mastiffs are being sent to Ukraine which is now facing a focused Russian operation in its east. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Britain is handing Ukraine heavily armoured vehicles as the besieged country fights for the east.

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Kyiv's forces have managed to "thwart" Russian attempts to connect Crimea, the peninsula they seized from Ukraine in 2014, to its western border so far.

And it is now hoped they will put Britain's Mastiffs, heavily armoured vehicles that were used to protect troops from roadside bombs in Afghanistan, to the same use they gave to the UK's anti-tank and anti-air weapons.

It comes after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, having seen Russian troops retreat from their advance on his capital, called on the world to hold Moscow accountable for a missile strike on a train station that killed at least 52 people.

Read more: Russia's twisted ‘for our children’ message on missile used to kill more than 50 refugees

"Like the massacres in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack on Kramatorsk should be one of the charges at the tribunal that must be held," he said of the strike in Kramatorsk, in the east of the country.

"It is energy exports that provide the lion's share of Russia's income and allow the Russian leadership to believe in their impunity.

"That allows them to hope that the world will ignore the war crimes committed by the Russian army."

Wreckage from a missile lying on grass outside the station was pictured with writing that said "For [our] Children".

Boris Johnson said the "unconscionable" attack showed the "depth to which Putin's once-vaunted army has sunk" and suggested it constituted a war crime.

Russia's focus has turned to focus on the east and the south of Ukraine, where they have enjoyed more success.

Read more: Zelenskyy: Atrocities in Borodyanka 'more horrific' than Bucha

Read more: Russia suspended from UN Human Rights Council following invasion of Ukraine

Western observers have been sceptical as to whether the redeployed units from Kyiv, which humiliatingly failed to force out Mr Zelenskyy and his government, will have the ability to make a large difference in those theatres.

Ukraine has requested more equipment to fight after their retreat revealed hundreds of people's bodies in towns near the capital like Bucha, and the UK has announced it will dispatch Mastiffs.

The armoured patrol vehicles weigh up to 23 tons and were designed to protect British troops fighting in Afghanistan from IEDs.

Vowing to "do everything" to stop Vladimir Putin winning in Ukraine, defence secretary Ben Wallace announced the shipment on Friday.

"We will be sending armoured vehicles, protective armoured vehicles - such as Mastiff - to make sure that Ukraine has that support," he said.

They will be going to soldiers who have proven their desire to fight the invaders – and continue to thwart Russian ambitions for Ukraine in the eastern Donbas area and the south of the country, near Crimea.

"Russian operations continue to focus on the Donbas region, Mariupol and Mykolaiv, supported by continued cruise missile launches into Ukraine by Russian naval forces," the UK Ministry of Defence said.

It added: "However, Russian ambitions to establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas continue to be thwarted by Ukrainian resistance."