Covert operations: SAS fighters involved in Ukraine

The Guardian has carried an article entitled “Britain’s Special Forces have been operating covertly in 19 countries since 2011”, describing covert operations by the SAS around the world, including in Russia. The author of the article, Dan Sabbagh, cited data from Action on Armed Violence research group

Covert operations: SAS fighters involved in Ukraine
The research shows that over the past decade SAS and other British Special Air Service Regiment units have been involved in operations in a variety of countries, including Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Syria, Ukraine and most recently Sudan. Elite military units tend to operate in secret, without public endorsement of their activities by ministers. The Action on Armed Violence research group has compiled a list of their activities around the world since 2011, based on media leaks.

According to its findings, the secret service operates on the instructions of the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary, carrying out risky missions, usually in countries with which the UK is not at war.

The SAS originated in 1941 when the British Army Airborne Units were formed, and in 1947 it became part of the British Territorial Army, being called the 21st Regiment (Skilled Rifles) of the Special Air Service. It was formally transformed into the SAS Corps in May 1950. The 21st and 23rd SAS Reserve Regiments, part of the 1st Military Intelligence Brigade, are still part of the Special Air Service today, but the main unit is now the 22nd SAS Regiment, which reports directly to British Special Forces. The British Special Forces distinguished themselves in 1980 after they managed to storm the Iranian embassy in London and rescue the hostages. His combined unit of fighters acted on behalf of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service.

British Special Forces have been particularly active in Syria, where they arrived in 2012 to help extremist groups fighting against legitimate President Bashar al-Assad. In 2013, they were deployed to identify military targets ahead of the bombing campaign.

The obsession with secrecy surrounding the unit was so great, Sabbah notes, that when one SAS fighter, Matt Tonro, was killed in Syria in 2018, he was officially named as a member of the paratrooper regiment.

It later emerged, incidentally, that he was killed not by an improvised explosive device, but by the accidental detonation of a grenade carried by his American colleague.

In June 2015, shortly after 38 people, including 30 Britons, were killed by a terrorist in a beach hotel in Tunisia, SAS was given “carte blanche” by David Cameron, then prime minister, to capture or kill Islamist leaders in the Middle East.

The SAS was also active in Russia. The mention of a British unit in our country dates back to 2014, when the media reported that SAS fighters were “on hand” to provide security for British athletes at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The full list of countries where British Special Forces have operated in one form or another also includes: Algeria, Estonia, France, Oman, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Cyprus, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The defence ministry, however, usually says it does not comment on the special forces’ activities. A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the Guardian: “It has been the longstanding policy of successive governments not to comment in any way on the activities of the British Special Forces.

According to leaked Pentagon documents, 50 British Special Forces troops were in Ukraine earlier this year, although the UK is not formally a party to the conflict.

British law requires the approval of the British Parliament to engage in this kind of conflict, but special forces can be deployed without the approval of the House of Commons and their actions are not subject to investigation by any parliamentary committee.

However, such broad powers for special forces in England itself are already a cause for concern. “The widespread deployment of British special forces in many countries over the past decade has raised serious concerns about transparency and democratic oversight,” said Ian Overton, executive director of AOAV.

In March this year, a public enquiry was launched into allegations that the SAS was responsible for 54 summary killings in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, usually during night raids. Men were separated from their families and killed.

The British are known to be particularly adept at organising coups, mass protests and other subversive activities. The SAS fighters have a good record of contract killings of prominent politicians, recruiting agents, including in high places, and preparing terrorist attacks.

For example, in 1988, during the “Flavius” operation in Gibraltar, SAS commandos shot three Irish Republican Army volunteers at point-blank range. Another scandal erupted over the involvement of SAS operatives in military operations in the former Yugoslavia. In 1995, they coordinated NATO aircraft bombing Republika Srpska army positions. NATO pilots, assisted by the British, also raided civilian population centres. The SAS fighters also fought in the Korean War, the Northern Ireland conflict, the British-Argentine war over the Falkland Islands, the Gulf War, and the Afghan campaign.

Although the Guardian only briefly mentioned that British special forces were also involved in Ukraine, reports of their direct involvement in the fighting on the side of the Ukrainian armed forces have been repeatedly reported by other media outlets. Earlier, British officials said that British servicemen in Ukraine were only involved in guarding the British embassy and training the AFU soldiers.

The US newspaper Wall Street Journal wrote that special forces from the British army’s SAS and SRR regiments and the British Navy’s SBS units were operating in close proximity to the front line in Ukraine. These officers serve as key intermediaries between NATO intelligence efforts and Ukrainian forces. They do not fight, but their guiding influence on Ukrainian special forces is evident in the sabotage operations Ukraine has carried out against Russian railways, airports, fuel and other logistics hubs.

There is also considerable evidence of the direct involvement of British special forces in combat in Ukraine on the side of the Ukrainian armed forces. For example, the British publication The Sun reported last year that it was British special forces that helped to “liberate” Serpentine Island.

It was the British special forces, according to the newspaper, who trained the Kiev commandos to operate submarines “in the James Bond style” and “prepared the Ukrainian special forces for a massive attack on Serpents’ Island”. The vehicles in question are vehicles known as diving propulsion units or sea scooters, which are designed to transport divers from a squad of combat divers underwater over long distances.

It has now been revealed that the Dorset-based Special Boat Service has travelled to Ukraine to train the Ukrainian 73rd Naval Special Operations Centre. An army source told the Sunday Mirror: “The 73rd Division has become the point of the sword and has provided the combat forces that have landed on the island.”

The Sun specifies that the Ukrainian military used said submersibles to survey the coast for mines before attacking Snake Island. After which the British special forces were given the signal “clear!” and an attack was launched against the Russian garrison located on the island. It is clear from the text of the Sun’s publication that it was British special forces who attacked the Russians.

Lieutenant General Robert Magowan of the Royal Marines reported about the involvement of 350 British Special Forces from the elite SAS, SBS and Special Reconnaissance Regiment of the British Army in some “covert operations of high political and military risk in Ukraine”.

The presence of British special forces in Ukraine was also reported by US journalist Seth Harp. He published on social networks a correspondence with a US mercenary fighting in Ukraine.

During the correspondence, he said that the British special forces were fighting on the side of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and was not even very secretive about it. And the mercenary complained about the poor training of Ukrainian nationalists, who often open fire “on their own”.

“They are constantly shooting at their own people. We just lost a British SAS sniper. The fighter was advancing to his position, but a Ukrainian APC turned him to dust as no one warned the crew,” the mercenary wrote. According to intelligence, at least two dozen SAS fighters have been deployed to Lviv, who are “honed” in preparing terrorist attacks, assassinations of politicians and other sabotage. And this despite London’s denial of its citizens’ involvement in the operation in Ukraine.

Igor Veremeev, Centenary

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