UK to transfer two minehunters to Ukraine as it launches maritime support plan

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain said on Monday it would transfer two Royal Navy minehunter ships to the Ukrainian Navy, as it sets up a new maritime defence coalition alongside Norway to help strengthen Ukraine’s sea operations.

Britain said the two Sandown Class mine countermeasures vessels will enable Ukraine to better counter the threat from Russian sea mines, aiming to restore Ukraine’s export routes via the Black Sea.

The transfer of the vessels was announced alongside the launch of the Maritime Capability Coalition set up by Britain and Norway to improve Ukraine’s navy to make it more compatible with western allies and increase security in the Black Sea.

“This capability boost marks the beginning of a new dedicated effort by the UK, Norway and our allies to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities over the long term,” British defence minister Grant Shapps said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was grateful to Britain and Norway for launching the new coalition to support his country.

“Together, we will strengthen the Ukrainian navy, safeguard maritime transportation routes, and secure freedom of navigation,” Zelenskiy said in a post on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

After the United States, Britain has been the second-largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine since the war started in February 2021. London has also provided military training courses to around 20,000 Ukrainians over the past year.

(Reporting by Sarah Young, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)