Customs slowed Marines' work in Ukraine, says EUCOM
June 13, 2006
U.S. reservists preparing for war games in Ukraine left the country Sunday without finishing the job they came to do.
The Marine reservists faced groups of angry protesters during their short visit to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. But, in the end, it was a holdup at Ukraine customs that kept the Marines from getting down to business.
“Without their equipment and tools they were unable to complete their mission,” said Navy Lt. Corey Barker, a public affairs officer with U.S. European Command.
More than 500 tons of construction materials and equipment belonging to the Marines arrived on a commercial cargo ship in Feodosiya, Ukraine, on May 27. It has been there ever since.
The contingent of 225 Marines was invited to Ukraine to upgrade the living quarters, medical facilities latrines and other infrastructure that would be used for the Sea Breeze military exercise at the exercise’s base camp at Staryy Krym near Feodosiya.
The Marines were not themselves part of the Sea Breeze exercise, a multinational war game scheduled to begin July 18, Barker said. The exercise is still expected to go on as planned.
The Associated Press reported Monday that two weeks of charged protests prevented the Marines from carrying out repair work at Staryy Krym. Barker said that wasn’t the case.
“They just ran out of time,” he said. As reservists, they had a limited amount of time and had to go back to their jobs in the States, he said. The standard call-up for operations like this is two to three weeks, he added.
However, the Marines, mostly engineers from the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing based in the U.S., did what they could to refurbish their living quarters before flying home Sunday.
The U.S. has conducted Sea Breeze exercises with the Ukrainian military since 1997. Twelve countries are to take part in the exercise, which is still scheduled to kick off mid-July.
But, the AP reported that the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said the exercise would be held as a Ukrainian-only maneuver if parliament did not approve President Viktor Yushchenko’s request for foreign troops to be on Ukrainian territory.
The majority of the exercise, though, is to be held at sea, Barker said.