One document shows almost 100 personnel, half of them British, deployed in the country
One of classified US military documents that has made its way online shows the presence of 97 NATO special forces operators in Ukraine as of March 1, 2023, of which 50 were British, multiple UK outlets reported on Tuesday.
The Guardian said it had seen two files, dated late February and early March, that listed 50 British special operatives as being active in Ukraine. The US had 14 special operatives in the country, and France another 15.
The documents were labeled “secret” and were prepared for senior US defense officials, according to the outlet. The daily updates contained information about NATO military operations, logistics, weapons deliveries and training of Ukrainian troops.
Another UK outlet, Declassified, noted that the 14 US special operators were among the 29 Pentagon personnel present in Ukraine, which included the Marine security detachment at the US embassy in Kiev and military attaches. Another 71 State Department personnel were in the country as well, amounting to a total of 100 Americans.
Declassified also noted that the slide was marked “not releasable to foreign nationals.”
While US special operators come from two units, Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force, the British definition extends beyond the Special Air Service (SAS) to paratroopers, marines, and other units. The prime minister is not obligated to brief the Parliament on their deployment.
Dozens of classified US military documents have been discovered online over the past week, attracting considerable media attention. The US government has not officially confirmed their authenticity, but the Pentagon has launched a hunt for whoever leaked them, and the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation as well. Russia and Ukraine have largely shrugged off the documents as irrelevant.
While Washington and London have never officially confirmed the presence of their special forces in Ukraine, multiple media outlets have reported on it over the past year. In April 2022, the French daily Le Figaro claimed that SAS and Delta Force operators had been present since the beginning of Russia’s military operation, waging a “secret war” on behalf of Ukraine.
The British Daily Mirror reported that dozens of “retired” SAS operators had gone to Ukraine to contribute their expertise to Kiev’s cause, funded through a private military company in an unnamed European country. Shortly after those revelations, the Times said a number of SAS operators had “returned” to Ukraine to teach Kiev’s soldiers how to operate British-made anti-tank rockets.
The outlet Grayzone reported in November that British special operators had been working through a private company called Prevail Partners to train Ukrainian saboteurs targeting Crimea. In December, a British military publication admitted that up to 300 Royal Marines had been deployed to Ukraine for “discrete operations.”