British troops risk prosecution if they travel to Ukraine, warns Wallace
British soldiers could be prosecuted for desertion if they travel to Ukraine to fight Russian forces, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said.
Mr Wallace pointed out that serving soldiers who have already traveled to the war zone will face a court-martial upon their return.
He also warned other Britons not to travel to Ukraine, telling them they would not be there for “a selfie and six weeks” but in the war “for real”.
In the Commons, Mr Wallace said any serving personnel who have traveled to Ukraine ‘will break the law and be prosecuted on their return for being absent without leave or deserting’.
For other Britons, he said “we strongly advise against joining these forces” in Ukraine.
“The Ukrainians are very clear: you show up, you’re in it for the whole game. You’re not there for a selfie and six weeks you’re there for real,” he said,
“I think we have already seen some people at the borders find that this may not be the right option to go.
The UK’s stance on Brits joining the resistance to Vladimir Putin’s invasion has forced ministers to backtrack on comments from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who said she would ‘absolutely’ support the volunteers who would go to Ukraine to fight.
Ministers’ concerns about the British being caught up in the fighting were underlined by Cabinet Minister Grant Shapps, who said it risked creating a “dangerous situation” with the Russians.
Mr Shapps told troops ‘you can’t just get up and leave’ after a 19-year-old Coldstream Guard was reportedly among four missing British soldiers who feared they had traveled to fight Russia.
The Transport Secretary stressed there was a “big difference” between the individuals making the potentially illegal decision and the UK sending troops to fight alongside the Ukrainians.
Ministers ruled out such a move for fear it would trigger a world war, instead pledging to provide defensive weapons to repel Moscow’s troops.
The teenager Coldstream Guardsman, based at Windsor Barracks, wrote a farewell letter to his parents and bought a ticket to Poland over the weekend with the aim of crossing over to Ukraine, according to The Sun.
Defense Ministry chiefs have banned all military personnel from traveling to Ukraine “until further notice”, while failure to comply with the advice could result in prosecution.
Mr Shapps told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘You can’t go and fight if you’re in the British army, you can’t just get up and go and fight.
“Of course, this is inappropriate behavior and one would expect the military to have very, very strict rules in place, as they do.”
Asked what Russia might do if a British soldier was captured or killed, Mr Shapps said: “There is a big difference between Britain sending in their army and some people breaking our law and going to do it. .
“But, clearly, this is a dangerous situation.”
The Coldstream Guards are the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous service and fought against the Russians in the Crimean War in the 19th century.
A Ministry of Defense spokesperson said: “All military personnel are prohibited from traveling to Ukraine until further notice.
“This applies whether the service person is on leave or not.”