By Kristina Wong - 08/01/14 04:36 PM EDT
The Pentagon said Friday that it plans to send troops to train Ukrainian forces next year as the country faces continued aggression from pro-Russia separatists.
According to the plan, which must be approved by Congress, soldiers stationed in Europe or from the California National Guard would train and equip four companies and one tactical headquarters of the Ukrainian national guard.
The training would take place inside Ukraine at an international peacekeeping and security center, he said.
"It's an area where we do multilateral exercises. It's an area that we're familiar with," said Kirby, though he did not specify how many troops would be going.
"Our intent is to use $19 million in Global Security [Contingency] Fund authority. That's what the authority's for," Kirby said, referring to a fund shared by the Defense and State departments for security and counterterrorism training programs.
The move comes as more Democrats and Republicans in Congress have increased calls for U.S. assistance to Ukrainian forces in the face of continuing support from Russia for Ukrainian separatists.
The U.S. and the European Union announced a new round of sanctions toward Russia this week and have focused on providing non-lethal support for the Ukrainian forces, such as packaged meals, sleeping mats, medical equipment, radios, helmets and other gear.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) called for the U.S. to send lethal weapons to Ukraine forces as they clash with rebel forces in southeastern Ukraine.
Pentagon officials, however, say there are still no plans to send lethal weapons or share intelligence with the Ukrainian military, despite a request from Ukraine for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, F-16 fighter jets, small arms and other arms.
"The focus of our — of our assistance remains on non-lethal. We continue to review requests for military assistance from the government of Ukraine through an interagency process," Kirby said.
"There's not going to be a U.S. military solution to the situation in Ukraine," said Kirby.
"We also need to be mindful that we don't take actions that make it worse or make it less — even less secure for the Ukrainian people," he said.