US paratroopers start training Ukrainian forces

imgUS paratroopers on Monday began training Ukrainian government forces who will fight pro-Russian separatists in the east, angering Moscow as the deadly conflict rumbles on in the ex-Soviet country.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko welcomed troops from the US 173rd Airborne Brigade in a rain-soaked ceremony at a military base in Yavoriv, western Ukraine, to launch Operation Fearless Guardian.
“We are the eyewitnesses and direct participants in forming the new Ukrainian military, which like the phoenix is rising again after years of decline,” Poroshenko told the assembled troops.
“This is not only a war for the independence of Ukraine, but also a war for freedom and democracy in Europe and the whole world.”
Officials said some 300 US troops will train 900 members of Ukraine’s National Guard, which is deployed in the east where heavy artillery fire can still be heard despite a February ceasefire.
The United Nations says more than 6000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past year and more than a million civilians have been displaced.
US Army Major Michael Weisman said the mission would provide training in individual and medical skills and defence manoeuvres with the kind of weapons already used by the Ukrainian forces such as AK-47 assault rifles.
As the US brigade arrived in Ukraine last week from its base in Italy, Russia warned the move could “destabilise” Ukraine and said it was a step towards the United States arming Ukraine.

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