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A U.S. Marine provides security for machinegunners while training with Ukrainian marines during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
A U.S. Marine provides security for machinegunners while training with Ukrainian marines during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A U.S. Marine provides security for machinegunners while training with Ukrainian marines during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
A U.S. Marine provides security for machinegunners while training with Ukrainian marines during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Marines walk past a row of Ukrainian vehicles during exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
U.S. Marines walk past a row of Ukrainian vehicles during exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A group of U.S. Marines from Weapons Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Regiment prepare for a night patrol and ambush drill at a military base near the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiva, about 100 miles from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, during Exercise Sea Breeze on Thursday, July 12, 2018.
A group of U.S. Marines from Weapons Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Regiment prepare for a night patrol and ambush drill at a military base near the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiva, about 100 miles from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, during Exercise Sea Breeze on Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)
A group of U.S. Marine safety officers follow a Ukrainian marine BTR-4 armored transport onto a training area during a live-fire attack drill at a military base near the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiva, about 100 miles from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, during Exercise Sea Breeze on Thursday, July  12, 2018.
A group of U.S. Marine safety officers follow a Ukrainian marine BTR-4 armored transport onto a training area during a live-fire attack drill at a military base near the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiva, about 100 miles from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, during Exercise Sea Breeze on Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)
A Ukrainian marine sits atop a BTR-4 armoured transporter and waits for live-fire training with U.S. Marines to begin, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
A Ukrainian marine sits atop a BTR-4 armoured transporter and waits for live-fire training with U.S. Marines to begin, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A Ukrainian marine fires a rocket-propelled grenade at a target while training with U.S. Marines during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
A Ukrainian marine fires a rocket-propelled grenade at a target while training with U.S. Marines during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Ukrainian marines drive a BTR-4 armoured transporter during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018.
Ukrainian marines drive a BTR-4 armoured transporter during Exercise Sea Breeze, Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)

MYKOLAIV REGION, Ukraine — A platoon of U.S. Marine reservists with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment trained with Ukrainian marines to attack a fictitious foe, roughly 100 miles from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

The purpose of Thursday’s exercise was to increase combat effectiveness and demonstrate resolve among the 19 allied and partner nations participating in the training known as Exercise Sea Breeze, now in its 18th iteration.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine have led to a sharp increase in tensions throughout the region. Moscow warned on Thursday that the multinational maritime exercise represented “playing with fire” in the Black Sea area. The warning comes as President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepare to meet Monday in Helsinki.

The crackle of machine gun fire and crisp “pop” from the mortars carried across flat Ukrainian steppe as the fighters from both countries provided cover fire for Ukrainian BTR-80 armored transports, which speeded ground troops into position. Once dismounted, Ukrainian marines rushed the targets, engaging them with rifle and rocket fire.

Later that night, patrols of U.S. Marines and their Ukrainian counterparts conducted ambushes in darkness, utilizing mortar illumination rounds and night vision equipment from both countries.

The U.S. Marines of Weapons Platoon, Echo Company, 2-25, based in Harrisburg, Pa., have been demonstrating different tactics and giving classes on subjects such as enlisted leadership, while sharing a field camp with their Ukrainian counterparts since shortly before the exercise began Monday.

The daytime attack and night ambush were part of the inland fighting portion of the primarily naval Exercise Sea Breeze, taking place around the Black Sea.

garland.chad@Stripes.com Twitter: @chadgarlandegnash.martin@stripes.com Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

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Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. An Illinois native who’s reported for news outlets in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Oregon and California, he’s an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University.
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