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300 US troops in Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces: Army

AFP / Anatolii Stepanov<br />Ukrainian army recruits hold their hands over their hearts as the national anthem is played during a farewell ceremony in Kiev on April 16, 2015
AFP / Anatolii Stepanov
Ukrainian army recruits hold their hands over their hearts as the national anthem is played during a farewell ceremony in Kiev on April 16, 2015

About 300 US paratroopers arrived this week in Ukraine to train the Ukrainian National Guard which is fighting pro-Russian rebels in the east, the US Army said in a statement.

Kiev (AFP)

The troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday in Yavoriv, western Ukraine, to spend six months training three battalions of Ukrainian troops, said the statement dated Thursday.

The move is likely to anger Russia, which accuses the United States of backing the protests that brought down the pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovych last year, sparking conflict between those loyal to Kiev and Moscow.

The West accuses Russia of arming the separatists who have taken control of some areas in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Moscow denies.

Fighting between the separatists and Ukrainian troops is rumbling on in the east despite a February ceasefire agreement.

The conflict has so far claimed more than 6,000 lives, according to the United Nations.

The US troops will train the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU), a reservist force reformed in 2014 to bring volunteers and militia under government control.

“We will be conducting classes on war-fighting functions, as well as training to sustain and increase the professionalism and proficiency of military staffs,” Major Jose Mendez, operations officer for the brigade, which is based in Italy, said in the statement.

© 2015 AFP

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