Russia offers warning for US paratroopers

 

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned that U.S. military educators conducting drills in Ukraine would increase the civil strife there.

“The participation of instructors and experts from third countries on Ukrainian territory … of course, does not help to resolve the conflict,” said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.

“On the contrary, it can seriously destabilize the situation,” he added, according to AFP.

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Peskov was responding to the arrival of about 300 American paratroopers in western Ukraine earlier this week. Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in Kiev, confirmed the arrival of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s soldiers on Thursday.

The paratroopers will train 900 members of the Ukrainian national guard over the coming six months, Deutsche Welle reported on Thursday.

The two forces will cooperate in joint operations performed in Yavoiv, Ukraine.

“We will be conducting classes on war-fighting functions, as well as training to sustain and increase the professionalism and proficiency of military staffs,” said Maj. Jose Mendez, operations officer for the 173rd Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy, in a statement Thursday.

The military collaboration comes amid heightened tensions between Russian and the U.S. over Ukraine. The Obama administration has condemned Putin’s support of separatists in the east trying to oust Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko since last year.

The White House has so far refused calls from Poroshenko to provide lethal combat aid. It has provided about $120 million in non-lethal military supplies instead, all while implementing new economic sanctions on Russia as well.

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Vice President Biden called Poroshenko and offered support for the training missions on March 19. 

A White House statement detailing their discussion said both men agreed sanctions on Moscow were directly proportionate to the implementation of two previous cease-fire agreements.

“As long as Russia continues to fuel violence and instability in Ukraine, the international community must be prepared to increase the cost for pursuing such actions,” the statement said.

Over 6,000 Ukrainians have died since the conflict between pro-government forces and Russian-backed separatists began in 2014.