LONDON – The British army confirmed Wednesday that a number of active soldiers have traveled to Ukraine to fight alongside the country’s troops against Russian forces.
An unnamed spokesperson was quoted by Sky News as saying that they were “aware of a small number of individual soldiers who have disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave and may have traveled to Ukraine in a personal capacity.”
“We are actively and strongly encouraging them to return to the UK,” the spokesperson said.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace earlier confirmed “reports in a weekend newspaper about three members who had gone AWOL over the weekend.”
“They will be breaking the law and they will be prosecuted when they return for going absent without leave or deserting,” he said.
According to a report by The Sun, a teenage soldier wrote a goodbye letter to his parents and bought a ticket to Poland intending to cross into Ukraine after leaving his barracks in Windsor.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Thursday that the servicemen’s actions risked a “dangerous situation” with the Russian regime as the Kremlin could exploit the situation if they were captured.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman said: “All service personnel are prohibited from traveling to Ukraine until further notice.
“Personnel traveling to Ukraine will face disciplinary and administrative consequences.”
Meanwhile, groups of former British servicemen have also traveled to Ukraine despite the government’s travel advice to the country.
One of the soldiers is Ben Grant, the son of a Conservative member of parliament and former government minister Helen Grant, according to reports.
The former marine spoke to reporters in the Ukrainian city of Lviv and said he went to Ukraine after seeing footage of a Russian attack on a house where a child was heard screaming in fear, according to a report by the Evening Standard.
“I thought, I am a father of three, and if that was my kids, I know what I would do. I would go and fight,” he said.
“Then I thought I would want another load of people who might be skilled enough to help me come and help me, come and help me, save my family.”
Britain’s army chief Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said last weekend that “it’s unlawful as well as unhelpful for the UK military and for the UK population to start going towards Ukraine.” (Anadolu)