by Ryan Maass
Washington (UPI) Sep 15, 2015
U.S. military assistance to Ukraine expands to include training of active-duty troops in addition to the country's recently formed national guard.
A new rotation of troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade are set to train up to five battalions of Ukrainian soldiers, as the conflict with Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine continues. The paratroops are no strangers to the region, rotating soldiers into the country for the program known as Fearless Guardian since April. The program's goal is to beef up and reform the Ukrainian military.
Training exercises will focus on marksmanship, small unit tactical planning, and counter drone surveillance. Many of the trainees have seen plenty of action already, returning from front-line battles against eastern Ukrainian separatists.
Western military interests in Ukraine have peaked since the beginning of Ukraine's civil war with pro-Russian rebels, who maintain strongholds in the eastern region of the country. The unrest began shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014, as protests in Donetsk, Luhansk, and other cities formed into an armed insurgency.
Other Western powers have joined the United States in bolstering Ukraine's defensive capabilities. Canada announced in December 2014 it would support training of Ukrainian police and medical personnel in addition to sections of the country's military. Britain plans to train 2,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces by the end of 2015.
Russian leaders have criticized the training programs, saying it simply provokes separatist fighters. However, U.S. military support for the country continues to grow, with additional training initiatives bringing the total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to $244 million.
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