Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now Putin’s number two on the Kremlin’s powerful security council, said British soldiers would become targets if they began training Volodymyr Zelensky’s warriors on Ukrainian soil.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps revealed that he had held talks with Army leaders about shifting an official British-led training programme “into Ukraine”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted Mr Shapps meant the training would take after the war in Ukraine .
But the Kremlin seized on the confusion, with Medvedev warning Europe’s biggest land war since 1945 could escalate even further and spiral into World War 3.
He posted on Telegram: “One newly minted cretin – the British Minister of Defence – decided to transfer British training courses for Ukrainian soldiers to the territory of Ukraine itself.
“That is, turn your instructors into legal targets for our Armed Forces, knowing full well that they will be mercilessly destroyed.
“And no longer as mercenaries, but precisely as British NATO specialists.”
READ MORE: Putin’s ally raises WW3 fears as he warns UK troops may become ‘legal targets’
Medvedev, who has repeatedly warned of nuclear war, said Mr Shapps was “actively pushing us towards a Third World War.”
Mr Sunak immediately clarified Mr Shapp’s comments, insisting that British troops would not be deployed to Ukraine while the bloodshed continued.
He said Britain has been training Kyiv’s troops “for a long time”.
The Prime Minister said: “What the Defence Secretary was saying was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine.
“But that’s something for the long term, not the here and now, there are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict. That’s not what’s happening. What we are doing is training Ukrainians. We’re doing that here in the UK.”
Former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace first floated the idea of Britain deploying troops to Ukraine in July.
He said it was “perfectly legitimate and possible” more soldiers will be sent to train Ukrainian troops in a rebooted Op Orbital.
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In 2015, British troops were sent to Ukraine to train Kyiv’s forces after the Russian assault in the Donbas region.
They trained around 22,000 personnel during the seven year operation.
Mr Shapps visited a military base on Salisbury Plain on Friday where he was briefed by General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff, and other senior figures.
He said: “I was talking about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well.
“Particularly in the west of the country, I think the opportunity now is to bring more things in country, and not just training. We’re seeing BAE, for example, move into manufacturing in country.
“I’m keen to see other British companies do their bit as well by doing the same thing.”
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