In Western Ukraine, a small force of British trainers is trying to teach the beleaguered Ukrainian army battlefield skills that will keep them alive against more heavily-armed Russian-backed separatists, The Telegraph reports.

It appeared that the troops who have spent a decade honing skills against lightly-armed Taliban fighters and their roadside bombs are also learning from those who have spent a year facing the very different threat of Vladimir Putin’s tanks and heavy artillery.

“We try to learn as much from them as we are trying to teach them,” said WO2 Steven Harrison, company sergeant major.

Read alsoBritish military start training Ukrainian soldiers“We have never been to war with an overmatched force before. Wherever we have been, we have always been the better equipped, better manpowered, better disciplined army, so some of the lessons that they have been learning are things that we can definitely understand ourselves and get back into our training cycle,” he says.

During their lessons, the British troops can point to years of hard-earned experience in Afghanistan, but the Ukrainians see that as a very different conflict.

He said: “They definitely see, rightly or wrongly, Afghanistan and Iraq as a peacekeeping mission. They don’t see it as how we see it, the sharp end.”

As Kyiv has asked without success for the West to supply lethal aid including anti-tank weapons, the Ukrainian troops at the training center are not content with defensive lessons. “They have asked us to teach offensive tactics, but we are not in that field, it’s defensive tactics we are teaching and how to preserve life,” said Lt Col Paul Kinkaid, a training specialist with the Adjutant General’s Corps.

“The Ukrainians weren’t lacking anything, they are a credible armed force, but they want different ways of doing business,” the British trainer says, “They say that at the front line if they are exposed for more than 11 minutes they can start to get hit by artillery.”

The Ukrainian soldiers learning these first courses will themselves become instructors for their comrades.