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LONDON (AP) — The first cohort of Ukrainian soldiers, many of whom have no previous military experience, have arrived in the U.K. for combat training as the eastern European nation races to replace troops killed and wounded in the war against Russia.

The first few hundred recruits are receiving instruction at sites across Britain in the first phase of program that aims to train up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers in weapons handling, battlefield first aid and patrol tactics, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said. It is part of broader package of support for Ukraine that includes 2.3 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) of anti-tank weapons, rocket systems and other hardware.

“Using the world-class expertise of the British Army, we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale-up its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their own future,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

As part of the program, Britain procured AK-type assault rifles so the Ukrainians can train with the weapons they will be using on the frontline. The U.K. will also provide personal protective equipment for the soldiers, including helmets, body armor, eye, ear and pelvic protection, individual first aid kits as well as field uniforms and boots.

The goal is to rapidly turn civilians into effective soldiers, Sgt. Dan Hayes told the Times of London.

“All these guys were (truck) drivers or they worked in quarries or they were shopkeepers,” Hayes said. “I’ve been in the army 14 years and I chose to join. These guys are all civvies … and we are investing everything we can because we know they are going to need it.”


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