With Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine continuing, the White House announced Wednesday the U.S. will begin training 750 Ukraine troops.
The news came after a phone call between Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and coincided with Russians celebrating the first anniversary of their country’s annexation of Crimea.
“Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy, will conduct the National Guard training mission at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, in Yavoriv, which is in western Ukraine, near the border with Poland,” Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.
Another defense official told Fox News 290 U.S. paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade will begin training 750 Ukrainian soldiers in late April.
The U.S. training exercise had been put on hold for fear of antagonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Originally, the plan involved a larger number of US soldiers going to Ukraine.
“In Russia, we always thought that Russians and Ukrainians were one nation. I think so now, too,” Putin told tens of thousands of supporters outside the Kremlin in Moscow Wednesday.
In the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, thousands of cheering Putin supporters and ethnic Russians marked the first anniversary of Russia annexing Ukraine’s peninsula 60 years after Nikita Khrushchev gave the territory to Soviet Ukraine in 1954.