The Ukrainian offensive which has been going on since early June involves soldiers trained by France. A contribution to the Ukrainian war effort on which Paris remains discreet.
France had announced in the fall of 2022 the training of Ukrainian soldiers. The counter-offensive launched at the beginning of June by Ukraine sounds the hour of an initial assessment.
Among the tricolor units having participated in the training of troops from kyiv, we find, according to The world “the 27th Alpine Chasseurs Battalion (27th BCA), based in Annecy (Haute-Savoie); the 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (3rd RPIMa), based in Carcassonne (Aude); or even the 1st artillery regiment of Belfort”. In addition, “special forces have also been mobilized for very specific training”, specifies the daily, in an article dated June 14.
Since then, these Ukrainian personnel have been sent to the front to put into practice the combat techniques taught by their French instructors.
In March 2023, we learned that 150 French instructors had been stationed in Poland to train 600 Ukrainian soldiers per month. “Training will begin in April and will teach land combat to 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers initially,” detailed the Ministry of the Armed Forces at the time.
The Minister of the Armed Forces announced in October 2022 that France would train “up to 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers” on its soil. “There have already been artillery formations made in France for the Caesars, but here we are changing scale,” explained Sébastien Lecornu at the time. “We do this by respecting the rule of law, without ever being in co-belligerence, because we are not at war. We are helping a country that is at war,” said the Minister for the Armed Forces at the time.
An argument that Moscow refuses. Thus the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov estimated last December that the members of NATO were directly involved in the conflict “not only by supplying arms, but also by training military personnel”, had he replied to an AP reporter.
A decimated Ukrainian AMX unit?
If Paris had initially wished to remain very discreet about the exact perimeter of these military formations, the first leaks had been made by the Ukrainian soldiers themselves. Some of them had posted videos of their training on AMX10-RC armored reconnaissance vehicles at the Canjuers camp as early as March 2022. These tanks were to equip the 37th Brigade of the Ukrainian Marine Infantry then being formed. Soldiers from this unit who took part in the recent Ukrainian offensive south of Velyka Novossilka testified to the washington post on June 13th.
According to them, 30 of the 50 men in their unit were put out of action and five armored vehicles destroyed at the start of an engagement on 5 June. One of them specified that the armor of the AMX10-RCs was far too light to protect them from Russian fire and that therefore the vehicles had to be “placed behind the infantry and not in front”.
The Russian army also claimed, on June 5, to have put out of action “three AMX-10 wheeled tanks”, among many other armored vehicles.
“40% would have potentially lost their lives in the fighting”
Ukrainian soldiers were also trained in the handling of Caesar cannons and Crotale surface-to-air defense batteries, but the bulk of the troops were trained in basic plain and urban combat techniques. “They wanted to learn trench fighting,” reports sources from Le Monde. Added to this are first aid on the battlefield and issues related to mines, present in large numbers on the front. According to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 250,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory have indeed been mined.
Infantry trained in this way pays a very heavy price in war, although it is very difficult to obtain accurate results. “During a training session organized several months ago by a Baltic country, trainers realized that they had lost contact with 70% of those they had trained – of these, according to their estimates, 40 % had potentially lost their lives in the fighting. A situation that can lead to post-traumatic stress”, explained on June 14 a French military source to the World to justify that tricolor instructors are instructed not to keep any contact with their Ukrainian students. Recruits with very disparate profiles, according to this daily: “From young people who are barely of age to people over 50.”
The training provided since March 2022 by the French army ended up being part of a broader system piloted by the European Union. The latter announced on October 17, 2022 that it would take charge of up to 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers, coordinating the efforts of France, Germany and Poland to provide basic training to 12,000 between them and specific learning for the other 3,000. An approach that complemented the handling of the equipment provided by the different countries and the training provided by the United Kingdom and the United States.
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