British military personnel are to be deployed to Ukraine for the first time in the next few weeks to provide advice and training to government troops, David Cameron announced before a committee of MPs.

The prime minister said Britain would be “the strongest pole in the tent”, and argued for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine failed to observe the provisions of a ceasefire agreement reached this month with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko.

The Ministry of Defence said up to 75 personnel would begin to deploy to Ukraine from next month as part of the training mission. Four separate areas will be covered by the deployment: medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry training.

Personnel involved in the training elements could spend one or two months in Ukraine, with a command and control deployment lasting up to six months.

Cameron, who has been accused of losing influence in Europe, told the Commons liaison committee that he was not concerned about whether the UK was in the room in every negotiation over Ukraine. In recent weeks Angela Merkel and François Hollande have been in direct negotiations with Vladimir Putin to try to end the conflict.

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