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Italian Newspaper: 173rd Airborne Brigade Heading to Ukraine to Train Forces

By    |   Saturday, 31 Jan 2015 12:32 PM

American soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Camp Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, are expected to be leaving the base once again to head to Ukraine to help train soldiers for their fight against Russia, an Italian newspaper reports.

The operation will be part of a project outlined by Lt. Gen. Gen. Ben Hodges, the head of U.S. Army Europe, earlier this month, reports the newspaper, Il Giornale, and will involve the same division that traveled to Ukraine last September for another NATO exercise, Rapid Trident, according to a translation of the Italian newspaper report.

The same newspaper earlier this week suggested that American soldiers may already be on the ground in Ukraine and helping the government of Kiev.

In a post that covers a purported Jan. 24 attack on the Black Sea port city of Mariupol by troops from the People's Republic of Donetsk, a Ukrainian reporter questions a soldier wearing a Ukrainian uniform, and claimed he used perfect English when he told the reporter to leave him alone.

Meanwhile Hodges, making his first visit to Kiev earlier this month, said the number of troops that will head to the Yavoriv Training area, located about 40 miles from the Polish border, has not yet been determined, reports Defense News.

The mission is part of a State Department plan to "assist Ukraine in strengthening its law enforcement capabilities, conduct internal defense, and maintain rule of law" Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman said.

During his visit, Hodges met with Ukrainian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Anatoliy Pushnyakov and acting commander of the National Guard Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Kryvyenko, and said he was "impressed by the readiness of both military and civil leadership to change and reform."

The Ukrainian government requested the training to help reform their police forces and establish a newly formed National Guard.

According to Defense News, the initiative funding is coming from the Global Security Contingency Fund, and was requested by the Obama administration for this fiscal year to help and train allied forces.

Already, the United States has $19 million earmarked to help Ukraine set up its National Guard.

Derek Chollet, who left his post as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs on Jan. 17, told Defense News that he does not expect the training mission "will require significant U.S. presence."

The mission is being planned among fears from Eastern European countries that Russia will step up its aggression in Ukraine. The fighting has continued in Donetsk, Ukraine, between government forces and separatist rebels, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko this month claimed Russia sent 9,000 troops into his country to back up the rebels.

Chollet told Defense Times that the incursions are refocusing American attention onto the region.

In addition to training forces, Washington this month delivered a prototype of an armored Kozak vehicle for the Ukrainian border guard, according to a U.S. Embassy report.

The vehicle, which costs about $189,000, has an armored hull that protects it against mines and bombs, and is just one piece of equipment sent by the United States, said the embassy, which noted "the United States has delivered dozens of armored pickup trucks and vans to the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The Kozak is larger and offers a higher level of protection."

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American soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Camp Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, are expected to be leaving the base once again soon to head to Ukraine to help train soldiers for their fight against Russia, an Italian newspaper reports.
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2015-32-31
Saturday, 31 Jan 2015 12:32 PM
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