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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

30th August 2011

Ukraine: hand grenades in the polygon

The wire is carefully concealed: stretched through the grass at ankle-height and attached at one end to a grenade.  When a soldier’s boot connects with it there is a mighty explosion.  Nearby, a military convoy is ambushed by enemy forces and a helicopter is called in to evacuate the wounded.

Fortunately, this is a military exercise, and no-one is killed or injured in either incident (but see below).  With other visitors, I’m observing exercise “Rapid Trident”, held this summer at the Yavoriv military training area – a “polygon” in Ukrainian and Russian – near Lviv.  1600 exercise participants are taking part from 13 NATO and Partnership for Peace countries including the US, Ukraine, Belarus, Canada, Moldova, Poland, Serbia and the UK, with observers from other countries, including Russia.  There are 90 participants from the UK, including representatives of Second Battalion, the Parachute Regiment who we watch jumping from transport aircraft above the battlefield.  In the course of a couple of hours we see mine awareness training, parachute jumps, infantry training, check-point training, that ambush, an assault on a house by Polish Special Forces and the decontamination of military vehicles following a simulated CBW (chemical and biological warfare) attack.  You can read more about British participation in the exercise here.

As I have blogged before, the UK is working closely with Ukraine in many areas of military co-operation.  We can learn from each other: another observer, Brigadier Giles Hill, Commander of the British 16 Air Assault Brigade, comments to me that the decontamination demonstration by Moldovan troops demonstrates skills which have not been much exercised recently in the British Armed Forces.  Seeing paratroopers from different countries jumping out of a mighty Ilyushin 76 is not only impressive but inspiring.  Exercising together produces bonds of friendship, professional respect and purpose which transcend nationality and origin.  For example, on completion of the jumps, several Canadian airborne soldiers receive their Ukrainian “parachute wings” having jumped with Ukrainian parachutes; and by the end of the exercise four Ukrainian units have passed Level 1 self assessment and NATO Level 2 accreditation.  A greater understanding of how different armed forces function is invaluable when, for example, troops are working together on international peace-keeping operations, where Ukrainian forces are playing an important role.

I am grateful to the Ukrainian Armed Forces for organising the event and to my US colleague for helping with transport for getting to Lviv and back.  And my sympathy to those who were actually hurt in the always-dangerous business of the parachute jumps.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.