The United Kingdom will send 10 armored vehicles to Ukraine to support the Special Monitoring Mission by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the U.K. Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday.
According to the ministry, the newly deployed armed forces are intended to help OSCE conduct its monitoring mission safely as tensions escalate in eastern Ukraine. The deployment follows an announcement by Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council on Monday that the country is prepared for military confrontation with Russia.
“The UK will send ten armored vehicles with associated communications equipment worth £1.2m [$1.8 million] to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ukraine Special Monitoring Mission (SMM),” the U.K. Defense Ministry reportedly said on its website.
The official statement also mentioned that the U.K. will increase the number of observers in the OSCE mission, which was rumored to include Russian intelligence personnel as well. However, Andrei Kelin, Russia's permanent representative to OSCE, dismissed the speculation as “nonsense.”
“We know that a campaign has recently been launched in Ukraine against the mission. It is accused of working for Russia; they cite completely ridiculous figures; they write in the media that 80 percent of it [the mission's staff] are Russians, even intelligence workers. This is nonsense,” Sputnik quoted Kelin as telling the Rossiya-24 television network on Monday.
Last week, OSCE said in a report that the Russian and Ukrainian heads of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination had agreed on a draft schedule for gradual disengagement of forces along the line of contact in Donbas, in southeastern Ukraine.
The draft document, signed by members of both the countries, proposed the disengagement of forces in three phases -- a ceasefire for two days, withdrawal of heavy weapons for five days and disengagement of forces to the line of contact referred to in the Minsk Memorandum for 21 days, according to the OSCE report.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense council said Monday that it has prepared its first line of defense, including equipment and reservists, for any potential military confrontation with Russia.
“Regardless whether the beginning of a war is scheduled or not, the Ukrainian military must be prepared for the development of any situation, including against aggression,” Sputnik quoted Andriy Lysenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, as saying. “The first line of defense has been prepared, our divisions have been fortified, additional defense equipment has been released… additional divisions of people who are currently on active reserve have been prepared and are ready to deploy in any direction wherever aggression may occur.”
On Tuesday, the Kiev military said that five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and eight others were severely injured due to shelling and explosions of mines in eastern Ukraine in the last 24 hours, Reuters reported. The incidents are the latest in a series that have violated a ceasefire agreed to in the Minsk Memorandum on Sept. 5.
Since the conflict in Ukraine intensified in April, Kiev and the West have accused Russia of interfering in the region. Moscow has also been criticized for allegedly sending troops and weapons to pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.