‘Show of solidarity and strength’ as UK bolsters Nato forces with one of the largest deployments since the Cold War.
Britain is sending 8,000 troops to Eastern Europe in one of the largest deployments since the Cold War.
Tanks, artillery guns, armoured assault vehicles and aircraft are also being sent to bolster Nato forces, in what Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, described as a “show of solidarity and strength”.
The deployment, intended as a “deterrence of Russian aggression”, came on the day a former British soldier became the first UK national confirmed to have been killed in the war in Ukraine.
Scott Sibley, 36, an ex-Royal Marine, is thought to have died in Russian shelling in Mykolaiv, in the south of the country. In a tribute, his former regiment said he had “showed Commando spirit until the end”.
Mr Sibley leaves behind a young daughter who has been suffering from a rare form of cancer. He had devoted much of his time to fundraising for charities that helped his family.
The Foreign Office confirmed that a British national had died in Ukraine and that a second Briton remains missing. Both men had been serving with a brigade of Ukraine’s international legion, made up of foreign recruits, military sources operating in the warzone told The Telegraph.
Russia also renewed its attacks on Kyiv on Thursday evening, with missiles striking the capital during an official visit by Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general. A Ukraine official described the strikes as a “postcard from Moscow” and questioned why Russia remained a member of the UN Security Council.
The announcement that Britain will conduct large-scale exercises across Europe – from Finland to Northern Macedonia – reinforces the warning to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, not to attack Nato territories.
The operation, dubbed Exercise Hedgehog, begins next month. UK forces will join 18,000 Nato troops on the Estonia-Latvia border, while 1,000 soldiers have been sent to Poland under Exercise Defender. Another 2,500 paratroopers have been sent to North Macedonia on Exercise Swift response.
Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse, one of the most senior commanders in the British Army, said: “The UK makes a significant contribution to the defence of Europe and the deterrence of Russian aggression.”
He added that the size of the deployment “will deter aggression at a scale not seen in Europe this century”.
Mr Wallace said: “The security of Europe has never been more important. These exercises will see our troops join forces … in a show of solidarity and strength in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War.”
In a further message to the Kremlin, nuclear-powered attack submarines from the UK, US and France have berthed in Britain’s Faslane naval base on the Clyde, home to the UK’s strategic deterrent.
Earlier this week HMS Audacious, a Royal Navy Astute-class hunter-killer boat, was seen loading Tomahawk missiles at the naval facility in Gibraltar.
The submarines are all understood to be preparing to take part in naval exercises in the north Atlantic, due to start in the coming days
In the latest in a series of bizarre and apocalyptic warnings issued by senior figures in Moscow, Putin’s propaganda and intelligence chiefs said the war in Ukraine was likely to end in a nuclear strike. They accused the United States and Poland of threatening to annex the west of the country.
With Russia’s invasion bogged down and entering its third month, Sergey Naryshkin – head of the SVR, Russia’s equivalent of MI6 – said a “coalition of the willing” would seek to annex a chunk of Ukraine controlled by Poland between the First and Second World Wars.
“The specifics of the upcoming mission are currently being discussed with the Biden administration,” he said in remarks carried by Izvestia, a Russian newspaper.
His comment came after the chief of Russia’s most powerful propaganda mouthpiece said the Kremlin’s confrontation with the West will “most probably” end in a nuclear strike.
A puppet government in Russia-occupied Kherson said on Thursday that it would switch the region’s payments to the rouble, in the biggest indication to date that Moscow intends to extend jurisdiction to parts of Ukraine.
RIA Novosti, Russia’s state-owned news agency, quoted a Russian-appointed “official” as saying the Kherson region will begin switching to roubles next month, before fully discarding Ukrainian currency in four months’ time.
In a sign that America will continue to support Volodymyr Zelensky’s government in Kyiv and back his war effort, Joe Biden, the US president, said he was asking Congress for $33 billion to pay for the war – more than twice the $13.6 billion aid Congress approved last month.
Mr Biden said: “The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly.”
Mr Biden said the US is determined to continue helping Ukraine and pointed out that Washington had sent 10 anti-tank weapons for every Russian tank deployed in Ukraine.
Mr Biden’s support was backed by Nato on Thursday. Jens Stoltenberg, its secretary-general, insisted the alliance would help Ukraine for years to come, including a shift from Soviet-era weapons to more modern Western arms and systems.
For its part, Britain is expected to send anti-ship Brimstone missiles to Ukraine over fears that a Russian blockade of the Black Sea could lead to a sharp rise in food prices.
The latest intelligence assessment from the Ministry of Defence suggests there are 20 Russian navy vessels in the Black Sea, including submarines.
Asked on Sky News about the supply of weapons to Ukraine, Mr Wallace replied: “We have said we will source and supply, if we can, anti-ship missiles. It’s incredibly important that grain that affects us all [through] food prices does get out of Ukraine.”
But Mr Wallace appeared to disagree with Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, that Moscow’s forces must be pushed out of “the whole of Ukraine”.
Mr Wallace said: “I think what I would certainly say is, we are supporting Ukraine’s sovereign integrity. We’ve done that all along. That of course includes Crimea. But you know, first and foremost, let’s get Russia out of where they are now in its invasion plans.”
On Thursday, Ukraine for the first time filed war crime charges against Russian soldiers for taking hostages and abusing them in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
The 10 soldiers, who are being charged in absentia, belong to Russia’s now infamous 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade – one of the units that launched a failed bid to capture Kyiv in March.
After the brigade withdrew from Bucha and the surrounding area, the bodies of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were discovered, with many packed in mass graves or left on the streets.
Many of the victims’ hands had been bound before they were executed and their bodies showed signs of torture carried out by the Russian occupiers. Survivors of the massacre say they were also held captive, raped, tortured and denied food.