Some British soldiers are AWOL and may have gone to Ukraine to fight invading Russian forces, a U.K. Army spokesperson confirmed to Sky News on Wednesday.
"We are aware of a small number of individual soldiers who have disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave, and may have travelled to Ukraine in a personal capacity," the spokesperson told the outlet.
"We are actively and strongly encouraging them to return to the UK," the Army representative stated, without detailing the troops' exact location or what the Defence Ministry may be doing to get them to return.
"All Service Personnel are prohibited from travelling to Ukraine until further notice," the spokesperson said. "This applies whether the Service Person is on leave or not. Personnel travelling to Ukraine will face disciplinary and administrative consequences."
The Army's confirmation of AWOL soldiers comes the same day British Defence Minister Ben Wallace told the House of Commons that the absent servicemembers would be punished.
"The Government’s position is: if you are a serving member of the armed forces, you will be breaking the law. There were reports in the weekend newspaper about three members who had gone AWOL over the weekend. They will be breaking the law and they will be prosecuted when they return for going AWOL or deserting," he told Parliament.
"For others, as the Government’s travel advice is 'Do not go to Ukraine.' We strongly discourage them from joining these forces," he said, adding, "The Ukrainians are very clear in saying, 'You turn up, you are in it for the whole game. You are not in it for a selfie and six weeks. You are in it for real.' I think we have seen already some people at the border decide that that may not be the right option to follow."
The Sun on Tuesday reported that a 19-year-old guard for Queen Elizabeth "quit his Windsor barracks, left a note for his parents and booked a one-way ticket to Eastern Europe."
He is one of four British soldiers who have reportedly gone AWOL to fight Russia in Ukraine.
Defence Ministry officials are attempting to stop them over fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could claim that the U.K. has entered the war if the soldiers are discovered.
More British troops, including reserves and as those on leave who have not been reported missing yet, are feared to have gone to fight as well, the Sun reported.
A friend of the 19-year-old guard told the outlet that he was "bored" with his job protecting the Queen.
"He’d had enough. He got promised a tour to Afghanistan, same as a lot of other lads after all the ceremonial stuff. But that didn’t happen," the friend told the Sun.