Brit paratroopers drop into Ukraine to show solidarity amid Russia tensions

Hundreds of British paratroopers have dropped into Ukraine in a show of strength as the country faces rising tensions with Russia.

With more than 450 troops, the mass exercise has been deemed the biggest in more than 20 years, reports Mirror Online.

This comes as Russian President, Vladimir Putin stepped up military operations against its neighbour Ukraine.

British troops conducted the exercise to show solidarity with the embattled country.

The Mirror was the only British newspaper allowed to witness the para-drop, named Joint Endeavour.

Elite Pathfinder soldiers had earlier parachuted in to scope a landing zone for the main assault force.

Troops laden with up to 80lb of combat kit were dropped from C-130 warplanes flying at 600ft after leaving RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Soon after landing, Sgt John Jenkins, 33, of 7 Para RHA, told us: “We’re carrying a huge amount of weight and in the air for about 30 seconds maximum.

"I have done around 15 jumps but this one stands out.

"Flying kitted up all the way from Oxfordshire across Europe there has been massive excitement about it.

“We’re the lead element and at high readiness so this was a chance to put the training into practice and it went extremely well.

“When you stand up to get out of the plane you just want to get going.

"There is an initial surge, a maelstrom as you’re thrown about in the air.

“You check your parachute and then it goes quiet.

"The next thing you’re thinking about is the landing.

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"It was hard but we were all OK.”

More than 13,000 have been killed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict which was triggered by Moscow’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.

The conflict has worsened in recent months.

Moscow-backed separatists have launched large-scale attacks across East Ukraine as part of Putin’s bid to regain Soviet-era territories for his Russian Federation.

Ukraine’s airborne forces commander Lt Gen Ievhen Moysiuk praised Britain for standing shoulder to shoulder with his country in the face of the growing aggression.

He said: “This ­exercise cements our links to our British friends and ­reassures the local population.

“Russian activity is on the increase along the border and the message from us is certainly that Ukraine will defend itself against any threat.

“I am very grateful to our British airborne comrades for joining this exercise.

"It has gone extremely well and shows how good our joint co-operation is.”

The most senior British officer on the ground added: “We are willing and ready to deploy.

“What we are saying by being here is that we are standing by our allies and partners and the sovereignty and security of the Black Sea region.”

The exercise, practice for a live operation, was aimed at getting the largest number of troops on the ground in the shortest time possible.

The Pathfinder unit is one of the most secretive in the British Army – and the Mirror was given a rare glimpse into the lives of members.

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Troops are normally parachuted into the landing zone, often behind enemy lines, under darkness to pave the way for the main force.

The major on this operation, known as “Jim”, said: “We are trained to go in at risk to reduce and mitigate risk to the main force coming later.

“We have to enable the main force to have a good landing and be safe before they move forward and that does entail a certain amount of risk.

“It is an enormous relief to see the main force come down safely having spent time on the ground guiding them in, out of sight of the enemy.”

The Mirror understands Russia was informed about Joint Endeavour in order to avoid a military reaction.

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