US ground troops to train in Ukraine

Approximately 200 U.S. soldiers are headed to Ukraine for peacekeeping exercises in mid-September, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

The soldiers will be the first U.S. ground troops in Ukraine since the government in Kiev began fighting pro-Russian separatists.

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The exercise, called Rapid Trident, will run Sept. 15–26 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center located in Yavoriv, Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said. 

The center is located in western Ukraine’s Lviv region — hundreds of miles away from the country’s eastern border, where separatists are fighting Ukrainian forces. 

The arrival of U.S. troops for a training exercise is the latest step by the Obama administration to show support for Kiev.

Over the weekend, Ukraine and NATO accused Russia of conducting an invasion after reports of Russian troops crossing the border.

President Obama on Wednesday slammed Russia’s “brazen assault” on Ukraine during a speech in Estonia.

The president will attend a NATO summit later this week to rally support for tougher actions against Russia and the administration is weighing further sanctions.

The U.S. and NATO have already planned other training exercises in Eastern Europe to reassure allies and beef up capabilities.

The American soldiers headed to Ukraine are from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is based in Vicenza, Italy. 

In a separate exercise, 120 personnel and six F-16 fighter jets from the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base in Italy will participate in a joint training operation at Lask Air Base in Poland from Sept. 4 through Oct. 8. 

During that time, they will also join in a NATO-led exercise in the Czech Republic with 11 other nations called Ample Strike, Warren said. 

There is also a sea-based multilateral exercise planned in the region: Exercise Sea Breeze, scheduled in the Black Sea for Sept. 8.

The Pentagon said these exercises were recurring training events and had been "long-scheduled."