YAVORIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine began joint military exercises with U.S. troops and other NATO troops on Monday, as neighboring Russia and Belarus staged large-scale exercises that raised alarm the West.
Ukraine, at war with Russian-backed separatists since 2014, has long sought closer integration with Western armies in the hope of one day joining NATO.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 2,000 foreigners will participate in the exercise “RAPID TRIDENT – 2021”, which will run until 1 October.
“I believe that each of you will concentrate all your knowledge, all your efforts in order to show the aggressor countries that they have no chance,” Ihor Palahniuk, Ukrainian forces training commander, said at the ceremony. opening at the International Security Center for Peacekeeping in Ukraine. near Yaroviv in the west of the country.
The U.S. military said in a statement that the exercise involved a Washington National Guard brigade combat team, deployed to Ukraine since April as part of a multinational training force. Troops from a total of 12 countries would be involved, “to improve interoperability between allied and partner countries” and demonstrate readiness.
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The exercise follows massive war games staged by Moscow near the NATO and EU borders of Russia and Belarus in recent weeks, which Russia said involved 200,000 troops. Kiev and NATO also accuse Russia of deploying additional troops this year near Ukraine’s borders.
On Monday, around 20 Russian warships began full-scale live-fire exercises in the Black Sea.
In June, Ukraine, the United States and other allies organized a naval exercise, Sea Breeze, in the Black Sea and southern Ukraine, despite Russian calls for the exercises to be canceled.
In July, Ukraine, the United States, Poland and Lithuania organized another exercise involving more than 1,200 troops.
(Reporting by Gleb Garanich; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Robin Emmott; Writing by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Peter Graff)
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