UK military trainers in Ukraine for medical, tactical drills

AP News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2015 1:30 PM

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Around 30 British military personnel have arrived in Ukraine to provide medical and tactical training to the country's troops, officials said Thursday.

Britain's defense ministry said it aims to boost Ukrainian armed forces' defensive capability in their armed campaign against Russian-backed separatists in the east.

The fragile cease-fire in place since mid-February has largely held, although sporadic small arms clashes continue to be reported daily. Separatist leaders have warned they could abandon the truce over what they say is Ukraine's failure to live up to a guarantee to grant autonomy to eastern regions.

British trainers will run a series of combat first aid courses at bases across the country, said Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzianik.

Assistance is being aimed at preventing further Ukrainian fatalities and casualties, Britain's defense ministry said in a statement.

It is unclear what tactical insight instructors will be providing, but the British defense ministry said it would "help improve situational awareness on the ground."

"Training will complement what we have already been providing — night vision goggles, body (armor), winter fuel, medical kits, winter clothing and sleeping bags — to the Ukrainian Armed Forces over the last year," the ministry said.

Motuzianik said British instructors will also give courses on providing psychological rehabilitation to troops returning from combat.

The British defense ministry said the number of British trainers in Ukraine could rise to 75, depending on the training program that is developed. Motuzianik said training is being rolled out over a two-month period at bases in the regions of Zhytomyr, Mykolaiv and Rivne.

Ukraine has lobbied hard for international military support.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that 290 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Italy, will go to Ukraine next month to conduct training with the Ukrainian National Guard. The training was announced last year but has been under extensive review amid uncertainty about the Ukraine crisis.

Russia has bristled at plans announced by various countries to provide military assistance to Ukraine, saying it won't help end the conflict.

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Danica Kirka in London, Lynn Berry in Moscow, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.