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It is illegal to join fight in Ukraine, Grant Shapps tells UK troops | Ukraine

A Cabinet minister has told British troops and ex-servicemen it is illegal to try to join the fight in Ukraine, after it emerged that a serving Coldstream Guard and an ex-marine son of a Tory MP are believed to be among those who have joined the war.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, told troops “you cannot just get up and go” and that Britons travelling to Ukraine to fight risked worsening a “dangerous situation”.

His comments come after the Sun revealed that a 19-year-old Coldstream Guard is among up to four missing British soldiers believed to have travelled to fight Russia. The teenager, who is based in Windsor barracks, wrote a goodbye letter to his parents and bought a ticket to Poland over the weekend with the aim of crossing into Ukraine, the paper reported.

The Guardian also revealed that the former Royal Marine commando Ben Grant, the son of the former government minister Helen Grant, travelled to fight in Ukraine over the weekend with six other ex-servicemen.

Shapps stressed there was a “big difference” between individuals taking the potentially illegal decision and the UK dispatching its troops to fight alongside Ukrainians.

'A big shock': Ben Grant on telling his family about going to fight in Ukraine – video
‘A big shock’: Ben Grant on telling his family about going to fight in Ukraine – video

Ministry of Defence chiefs have banned all service personnel from travelling to Ukraine “until further notice”, saying breaching the advice could lead to prosecution.

Shapps told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “You cannot go and fight if you are in the British army, you cannot just get up and go and fight … That is inappropriate behaviour and you would expect the army to have some very, very strict rules in place, as they do.”

Asked what Russia might do if a British soldier was captured or killed, Shapps said: “There’s a big difference between Britain sending its army in and some people who are breaking with our law and going to do it.

“This is a dangerous situation. And clearly, we want to make sure that the assistance we are providing is done in an official way – like the anti-tank missiles that we provided prior to and during this conflict, and like the 22,000 Ukrainians that we’ve trained.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson added: “All service personnel are prohibited from travelling to Ukraine until further notice. This applies whether the service person is on leave or not. Personnel travelling to Ukraine will face disciplinary and administrative consequences.”

Three days after the invasion began, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said she would “absolutely” support UK nationals who chose to join the war. But since then the government has contradicted her remarks.

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, has previously urged British civilians not to join the fighting.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “We think the best way we can help Ukraine right now is by ensuring Putin fails. We fully recognise the strength of feeling about British people wanting to support the Ukrainians following the Russian invasion. There is advice up on travelling to Ukraine, we currently advise against travel to Ukraine.”

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