A contingent of Australian troops will be farewelled in Darwin as they prepare to fly to the United Kingdom and help train Ukrainian recruits preparing to fight Russian forces.
The Australian Mission, Operation Kudu, will see about 70 personnel fly out from Robertson Barracks in the Northern Territory this week to join Operation Interflex, a UK-led mission which has already trained around 10,000 Ukrainians.
Troops from a host of countries across Europe – as well as Canada and New Zealand – already offered training to Ukrainian forces in 2022 under the mission. Defence Minister Richard Marles first announced Australia would join the international effort in October last year.
The Commanding Officer of 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Gilmore, told the ABC that the deploying troops would be getting Ukrainians recruits as “combat ready” as possible.
“They’re a group of outstanding young men and women soldiers … [who’ll] be training the recruits in infantry tactics in an urban, wooded and basic infantry tactics to best prepare them for potential future conflict,” he said.
“They’re going to be providing essential training to the armed forces in the Ukraine, to really support the Ukrainian soldiers to end this conflict on their terms.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australians would be training “citizen soldiers” from Ukraine.
“It’s people who are giving up their day jobs to help fight for their country, and the heart is very much there,” he said.
“The training that will be provided by the Australian troops will give these Ukrainian soldiers the skills they need to equip them on the battlefield.
“It’ll save lives and it’ll keep Ukraine in the fight, which is really important.”
After the training, the Ukrainian fighters will re-join their army to take up the fight in their home country, where the conflict with invading Russian forces rages on.
The 70 or so soldiers travelling from Darwin are predominantly from 1st Brigade and have taken the unusual step of training with AK-47 rifles, a weapon many Ukrainians use in combat.