- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2015

About 300 U.S. service members began training soldiers in the Ukraine national guard on Monday as Russia warned that the American involvement could make the already dangerous region even less stable.

Members of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade are beginning a six-month training rotation, called Operation Fearless Guardian, to provide training to 900 Ukraine national guardsmen on medical help and casualty evacuations, counter unmanned aerial vehicle tactics, counter insurgency and counter improvised explosive device skills, said Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman.

“As we’ve said for months, this latest training, which is as valuable in peacetime as it is in times of conflict, is to establish a professional force that protects and defends Ukraine’s people as well as the country’s sovereignty,” he said.

When asked about Russia’s allegations that the America-led training could escalate the fighting between Russia and Ukraine that has been ongoing for more than a year, Col. Warren said it’s Russia’s actions that are creating more conflict.

“It’s Russia that’s destabilizing Ukraine. They are the ones who are continuing to supply lethal weapons, they are continuing to send Russian combat forces into Ukraine, so I think really it’s the Russians who are destabilizing the situation in Ukraine,” he said. “This is training national guardsmen in national guard tasks.”

The Ukrainians will be using their own weapons and ammunition for the training, Col. Warren said. He also emphasized that no large-scale exercises were planned. Rather, the training program would focus on combat training, small unit training and individual soldier skills.

The training will occur in a Yavoriv training complex in western Ukraine, near the border of Poland. Since hostilities with Russian backed separatists are in the eastern part of the country, Col. Warren said participating in the training poses no danger to American troops.

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