James Heappey Launches Furious Attack On AWOL British Soldiers In Ukraine

The defence minister said those joining the war 'to take selfies and Instagram shots' could end up dragging the UK into the conflict.
Defence minister James Heappey
Defence minister James Heappey
Sky News

British soldiers who have gone AWOL to fight in Ukraine could end up dragging the UK into a war with Russia, the defence minister has said.

James Heappey said it was illegal and “simply unacceptable” for British service personnel to travel to the warzone.

A spokesperson for the Army told Sky News that “a small number of individual soldiers” had gone absent without leave in order to travel to Ukraine.

Heappey said those involved “will be in an awful lot of trouble”.

Speaking to Sky News, the minister said: “It is illegal for a British service person to go absent without leave in the first place, but to go absent without leave in a foreign war is simply unacceptable and frankly risks the United Kingdom being wrongly claimed by Russia to be a belligerent in this.

“And I think service people who might think they are doing the right thing reflect that it is 100 per cent not the right thing to be doing.”

Heappey also urged British Army veterans not to go to Ukraine either, and warned them there would be no way for them to return to the UK afterwards.

He said: “I would say to the wider veterans community, I know ... that there’s a thing deep inside you as a soldier that makes you see TV images like the one that you’ve showing and makes you want to go and fight and put things right.

“But no good comes from British service people or veterans going to Ukraine to be a part of this.”

Heappey added: “This is not the time for people to be going there and, more importantly, as Ukrainians have made clear, once you’ve crossed the border with the expectation to fight, you’re in it for good.

“So people who think they can go there for a couple of weeks, take some selfies, get some Instagram shots and then come home, that is not the way that the Ukrainians are viewing the people that go to fight for them. British people should not be doing it.”

Heappey also said the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a war crime, and said those responsible would eventually be held accountable.

He said: “We ask ourselves the question how did this happen? Was it an indiscriminate use of artillery or missiles into a built-up area, or was a hospital explicitly targeted?

“Both are equally despicable, both, as the Ukrainians have pointed out, would amount to a war crime.

“So, what matters beyond the outrage of the fact that this has happened in the first place is to make sure all this is catalogued so when – and they surely will be – President Putin and everybody in the military chain of command beneath him – because war crimes are committed at every level not just the ultimate decision maker – people will be held to account for what they are doing in. It’s utterly despicable.”


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