British volunteer fighters are feared to have triggered a deadly airstrike on a Ukrainian military base after their phones were detected in the area, the Telegraph can reveal. At least 35 people were killed, potentially including three British ex-special forces troops, when 30 Russian cruise missiles hit the Yavoriv facility, near the Polish border.

 

The target on the base is believed to have been the International Centre for Peacekeeping and Security, where Ukraine has been training foreign civilian recruits for its international brigade.

 

Now, the Telegraph has learned that around 12 to 14 phone numbers starting with +44 were visible to surveillance equipment in the area in the hours before the missile strike.

 

Security sources said mercenaries paid by the Wagner Group, a secretive military company with links to the Kremlin, were suspected of operating on the ground at the time.

 

Mobile phone numbers can become visible to snooping technology when the device pings a nearby phone mast to connect to the network so a user can make calls or send texts.

 

Russia is thought to have access to a vast trove of phone numbers linked to elite British units, compiled through secretive surveillance operations near military bases in the UK.

 

Many of the British men who have volunteered to join the resistance against Vladimir Putin’s invasion formerly served with these units, meaning their numbers would immediately set off alarm bells in the Kremlin if spotted connecting to a Ukrainian phone network.

 

A source said: “As soon as Moscow got any whiff of possible British presence on the base, they would have immediately ordered a strike.”

 

There is also concern that the burgeoning volunteer force that responded to the call to arms of Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has been easily infiltrated by Russian spies.

 

“There was potentially a mole placed in the unit (on the Yavoriv base) who was seen running from the camp around 30 minutes before the attack, with a laptop and kit,” a source said.

 

British volunteers who, by a stroke of fortune, left the base just hours before the attack told the Telegraph earlier this week that they were alarmed at the chaotic nature of the operation to prepare foreign recruits.

 

Carl Walsh, from the Rhondda Valley in Wales and Ollie Funnell, from Eastbourne, claimed they received assurances in advance from Ukrainian officials that they could join the international brigade as medics.

 

However, the men arrived at the base to be told they would instead be sent to fight in the battle of Kyiv after just 48 hours of training – even if they did not have a military background.

 

Mr Walsh, combat medical technician, said: “They didn’t even have weapons in camp to train with.”

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