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Pentagon to send more arms and equipment to Ukraine

During boarding training in the Black Sea, a Ukrainian special operations soldier provides security alongside U.S. special operators during exercise Sea Breeze in 2017. The U.S. is increasing military aid to Ukraine, with a focus on helping beef up the country’s navy and marines.

HENRY GUNDACKER/U.S. ARMY

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2019

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. will deliver more sniper rifles, grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars and other gear to the Ukrainian military as part of an ongoing effort to bolster its defenses on land and at sea, the Pentagon announced.

The Defense Department said in a statement Tuesday it will provide $250 million in military aid that also will include training for Ukrainian forces and equipment for Ukraine’s navy, which has struggled to counter Russia in the increasingly tense Black Sea area.

The funding boost coincides with progress Ukraine has made by reforming its command and control functions, as well as by strengthening civilian oversight of its military, the statement said.

“These reforms will bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity in support of a secure, prosperous, democratic, and free Ukraine,” it said.

The new funds bring total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine up to $1.4 billion since 2014, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support for armed separatists in the country’s breakaway eastern region. However, it has only been in the past year that the U.S. has begun shipping lethal military aid to the country, where sporadic clashes continue between government security forces and the militants.

In 2018, Washington began stepping up its support to Ukraine by providing military equipment, such as anti-tank Javelin missiles. In September, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred two Island-class cutters, armed with .50-caliber machine guns and 25 mm deck guns, to Ukraine to bolster the country’s small navy.

Tensions with Russia sparked around the Black Sea in November when the Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian ships that were attempting to pass through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov.

In the months since the incident, the U.S. has called on allies to demonstrate more support for Ukraine. In April, NATO members responded with an agreement to expand their presence in the Black Sea by conducting more port visits. The agreement also focused on improving NATO’s “situational awareness” in the region and stepping up maritime forces training.

The new funds also will aim to improve the Ukrainian navy and naval infantry’s “maritime situational awareness and operations,” the Pentagon said.

Other areas of focus are improving the “survivability” of Ukraine’s ground and special operations forces with counter-artillery radars, electronic warfare detection equipment and help ensuring secure lines of communication.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

 

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