Armed Forces Secretary James Heappey warned veterans and troops not to join the Ukrainians fighting the Russian advance – as they could risk dragging the UK into the conflict
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The Tory minister said British soldiers and veterans were not allowed to travel to Ukraine because they risked dragging Britain into the conflict.
Armed Forces Secretary James Heappey criticized active-duty soldiers who went to AWOL to join combat, saying it was “illegal” and “100% not the correct thing to do”.
He confirmed three or four members of British forces had gone to war in Ukraine and warned Vladimir Putin could claim the UK was “aggressive”.
Mr Heappey, a former army major, also explicitly warned veterans not to go out to fight the Russians, saying: “There is no benefit to coming from British servicemen or veterans coming in. Ukraine to participate in this.”
His comments come amid mounting criticism from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who initially said she would “absolutely” support British volunteers out in the conflict.
Ms Truss hit back at her comments on Wednesday, saying she was “expressing support for the Ukrainian cause”.
Her Tory colleague Mr Heappey said those involved would be in “a lot of terrible trouble”.
He told Sky News: “It is illegal for the first British service worker to be absent without leave.
“The unrelenting absences from fighting a war abroad are simply unacceptable, and frankly there is a risk of the UK being falsely declared by Russia to be belligerent in this regard.
“Service people who may think they’re doing the right thing should reflect that it’s not 100% right.”
He said only a “very small number of soldiers” have gone to AWOL – but he has issued a warning to veterans who are also thinking of joining the war.
Mr Heappey said: “I want to tell the wider veteran community I know… that there’s something deep inside of you as a soldier that makes you see the picture on TV and makes you want to go and fight for what’s right, but good will come from British servicemen or veterans coming to Ukraine to take part in this.”
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Mr Heappey added: “This is not the time for people to go there and more importantly, as the Ukrainians have made clear, once you have crossed the border with the expectation of fighting, it is good that you are there.
“So people who think they can go there for a few weeks, take a few selfies, take a few Instagram photos and then come back home, that’s not how Ukrainians are looking at those who don’t. fight for them. The British shouldn’t do that”.
The leading Tory also accused Russia of committing war crimes by attacking a maternity hospital in Mariupol.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Is it the indiscriminate use of artillery or rockets on a construction area, or a hospital that has been clearly targeted?
“Both are equally despicable, which, as the Ukrainians have pointed out, would be war crimes.”
An Army spokesman told Sky News: “We are aware of a small number of soldiers disobeying orders and unexcused absences, and may have traveled to Ukraine as individuals.
“We are actively and strongly encouraging them to return to the UK.”
All service personnel are prohibited from traveling to Ukraine, with or without leave, and will face disciplinary consequences if they do not comply with the order, the spokesman said.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/top-tory-says-brits-must-26431201 Top Tory says Britons must NOT fight in Ukraine - after Liz Truss support