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The United Kingdom and Norway are leading a new Maritime Capability Coalition to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to operate at sea, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 11 December 2023.

The new coalition will provide long-term support to Ukraine, including training, equipment and infrastructure to enhance security in the Black Sea.

In announcing the initiative, UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK is providing two ex-Royal Navy Sandown-class minehunters to Ukraine, as well as other equipment, training and infrastructure. Norway’s contribution includes personnel, equipment and training, although no further details are currently known.

“These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine, which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since [Russian President Vladimir] Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion,” said Shapps. “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, enhancing their ability to operate in defending their sovereign waters and bolstering security in the Black Sea.”

Norwegian Defence Minister Björn Arild Gram added, “We must support Ukraine in its efforts to open up trade routes and freedom of movement in the Black Sea. Our aim is to strengthen the Ukrainian Navy and improve Ukraine’s ability to operate along its own coast.”

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (centre), Norwegian Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (second from left) and Commander of the Ukrainian Navy Olekesiy Neizhpapa (right) meet with senior Royal Navy officers at the ‘stone frigate’ HMS President in London on 11 December 2023. That day it was announced that the UK, together with Norway, would lead a new Maritime Capability Coalition to support the Ukrainian Navy. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

According to the UK MoD, the new maritime coalition will work closely with the Ukrainian Navy and Ministry of Defence to develop a range of capabilities, including the rapid development of a naval force in the Black Sea, the further development of a Ukrainian Marine Corps and the standing up of a river patrol boat fleet to defend coastal and inland waterways.

The initiative was agreed during recent meetings of the 50-nation Ukraine Defence Contact Group and is part of a series of capability coalitions to strengthen Ukrainian operations in other domains, including on land and in the air.

The UK and Norwegian armed forces, together with other international partners, have already trained hundreds of Ukrainian marines and aim to build on this work.