Did the British Army say Ukrainian troops ‘lack basic military skills’?

Ukraine has staged an extraordinary push against Russian forces in northern Ukraine as the conflict in the beleaguered nation nears its seventh anniversary.

Reports of more than 2,300 square miles of territory reclaimed in a matter of days have arguably tarnished the reputation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military, with a reactive Russian strategy still to come.

However, despite this most recent turn in the tide of the battle, a letter published online seems to suggest that the West has little faith in Ukrainian troops.

A letter, allegedly sent by the British Ministry of Defence, claims that Ukrainian forces lack even basic military training. Pictured, civilians hold wooden replicas of Kalashnikov rifles, during a training session at an abandoned factory in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on January 30, 2022, led by instructors with combat experience.
Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Requirement

A letter allegedly sent by the British Ministry of Defense states that Ukrainian military personnel have not reached “UKNATO basic military skill level”.

The letter (according to her) is a response to a report sent to the Ministry of Defense on the “low efficiency of Ukrainian trainees in certain areas of military education”.

The unverified letter was quickly picked up and shared by several pro-Russian social media outlets accountsincluding those on Twitter and Telegram.

Facts

The falsification of official government documents, websites and other documents, while illegal, is an increasingly common tool of disinformation.

In the case of this “letter”, concerning the training and competence of the Ukrainian military forces, the red flags are particularly clear.

First, the letter alleges that Ukrainian troops are woefully unqualified, in part due to an ill-prepared training program conducted by the British military.

The letter was published by USSA News (which regularly publishes false and untrue stories and was reported by other fact-checkers as a source of misinformation) in the style of UK MoD correspondence. It includes an accurate address for the British Army Headquarters, a general email and the website URL.

However, if the document was authentic, it is highly likely that bona fide news outlets would have already published an article about its contents. The fact that it was only published via an obscure website notorious for posting fraudulent articles is the first clue that it lacks authenticity.

While it is true that Ukrainian troops received training from the British army, with up to 10,000 places made available by the UK Armed Forces in 2022there is nothing else in this reality-based document.

One of its main claims is that Ukrainian military personnel have not reached “Phase 1 of the UKNATO Basic Military Skills Level”. Firstly, there is no “basic military skill level in the UK”; the is Phase 1 training in the British Armyotherwise known as basic training.

This covers rudimentary skills such as field craft, first aid, and how to hold a gun. Although the course conducted by the British armed forces is taken from the basic training curriculum, the idea that the Ukrainian forces as a whole do not meet this standard is simply false, as evidenced by their successful efforts to defend themselves against the Russian invasion.

The document repeatedly uses incorrect terminology, such as referring to the British Army as “the British Royal Army”. Nor is there a pact known as the “2022 Anglo-Ukrainian Defense and Russian Aggression Agreements”, as mentioned in the first paragraph of the letter.

There are also informal, awkward, and opinionated language choices throughout the letter that further undermine its credibility. Grammar and spelling errors, as well as the mixing of American English and King’s English, are other significant red flags.

Ukrainian training
New members of the Chechen volunteer battalion Dzhokhar Dudayev take part in a training session in the Kyiv region on August 27, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

Poorly written sentences such as “I can assure you that your report regarding the low efficiency of Ukrainian trainees in certain areas … is carefully reviewed and considered extremely valuable” and “I cannot guarantee that any change in command is entirely Satisfied with the Holder Course of Affairs” are highly unlikely to have come from the pen of a British Army office.

The Department of Defense said the letter published on USSA News had nothing to do with it.

A source of defense Newsweek said the letter was not from the Department of Defense and was “stylistically” not something the department would have produced.

The source noted the incorrect references (such as British Royal Army), multiple spelling mistakes and non-British language which “just isn’t [something] he would release or produce.

Ukrainian forces have made dramatic advances into territory previously held by Russia in recent days. A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed Russian troops back from the north and south of the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops had recaptured about 2,320 square miles since their counteroffensive began earlier this month.

decision

Fake

Fake.

The claims stem from a fraudulent document, designed with the appearance of an official letter sent by the British Armed Forces. It is filled with inaccurate terminology, poor English, and unsubstantiated assertions, indicating its likely inauthenticity. The fact that it was published by a known disinformation site further reinforces its artifice. A defense source, in an email to Newsweekalso denied that the MoD was behind the letter.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Checking Team