US training of Ukraine forces to go forward
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is moving forward with plans to deploy U.S. paratroopers to war-torn Ukraine to train local forces, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The training will likely begin in late April, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters.
The mission, which was scheduled to occur this month, was delayed due to concerns that the training effort would undermine the Minsk II cease fire agreement between Kiev’s forces and Russia-backed insurgents, according to Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe.
That deal was brokered in February, but fighting has continued in eastern Ukraine.
Approximately 290 U.S. soldiers from the Army’s 173rd “Sky Soldiers” Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, will deploy to western Ukraine to train three battalions of the Ukrainian national guard, Warren said.
When asked why the training was moving forward, Warren said, “As the situation in Ukraine continued to develop and evolve … we put this training event under some review” and “the decision [was] made that conducting this exercise is a good idea.”
At a breakfast with defense reporters in Washington on Tuesday, Hodges said he anticipated that the training would go forward next month, but he had not received any orders to that effect.
Hodges said that U.S. troops will try to improve the Ukrainian national guard’s ability to conduct route security, protect critical infrastructure, provide emergency medical care, survive artillery and rocket fire, and operate in an electronic warfare environment.
“Beginning of the training absolutely does not signify an assessment that [the Minsk agreement] has failed,” Hodges said.