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US considers training the Ukrainian army

US considers training the Ukrainian army

The United States is considering providing training to Ukrainian regular army and special operations forces who are fighting Russian-backed separatists, the Army's top commander in Europe said Monday. 

The training would involve about 300 U.S. soldiers at a training center in western Ukraine, which would be far from the front lines in Ukraine's year-long fight against the separatists. It would begin in November. 

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A training program would represent a deepening of the U.S.'s military support for the Ukrainian forces, after Moscow invaded Ukraine last year and annexed the peninsula of Crimea.

Currently, about 300 U.S. forces are in western Ukraine training three battalions of Ministry of Interior's National Guard forces. That training would wrap up in November.

"What is under consideration is what I call 'Phase Two,' which would begin in late November. If approved, then we would begin to train Ministry of Defense army units, starting in November," Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. 

"But a final decision has not been made on that yet," he said. 

A senior administration official told The Hill on background that there is "no additional training to announce at this time."

U.S. military support for Ukraine has been a flashpoint between Congress and the administration. The White House has refrained from providing lethal military assistance to Ukrainian forces out of concern that Moscow would retaliate. 

Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate have urged the administration to provide lethal military assistance for Ukraine, and have passed legislation that would authorize President Obama to do so. 

However, the U.S. has provided only non-lethal military aid to Ukraine, including light weight counter-mortar radar, body armor, night-vision devices, medical supplies, communications equipment, mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, uparmored Humvees, and other supplies. 

The administration has also provided economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow. 

Hodges said the kind of training that would be offered is still being reviewed, and would have to be agreed on by the U.S., Ukraine and other participating nations.

He said he expects the training would look similar to that being provided to the National Guard forces, and include basic tactical tasks, combat life-saving skills, and how to survive in a heavily contested electronic warfare environment. 

Hodges said the United Kingdom has already been providing military training to Ukrainian army troops.