NATO begins 'war games' in western Ukraine
A US-led NATO military exercises involving 1,300 troops from 15 countries started today in northwestern Ukraine, reports the Sofia News Agency.
The exercise Rapid Trident-2014 will be conducted until 26 September near Yavoriv, some 60 kilometers from the city of Lviv, near the border with Poland. Ukrainiangovernment forces continue to fight pro- Russian rebels in the eastern region of the country in violation of a fragile truce signed on 5 September.
The exercise will consist of multinational field training, but there are no live fire exercises scheduled. In preparation for Rapid Trident 14 units will undergo one week of situational training exercises that focus on key tasks such as countering improvised explosive devices, convoy operations and patrolling.
Countries taking part in the exercise are Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, the UK and the US, as well as NATO representatives.
In a show of solidarity with the government in Kiev, the US was expected to send around 200 troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Italy, to take part in the war games. Ukraine has taken part in similar exercises since 2006 under its 'Partnership for Peace' programme with NATO.
On Sunday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Valery Heletey said that some NATO countries had already started shipping arms to the country as part of an agreement reached at the Alliance’s recent summit in Wales. Heletey told reporters “the process of delivering arms is being realised” but didn’t disclose with which NATO countries the government in Kiev had struck a deal to send arms.
In the wake of the Wales Summit, a senior Ukrainian official said Kiev had agreed on the provision of weapons and military advisers from several NATO members, however, four of the five countries named, including the US, denied this.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, has said that his country will request that it be allowed to join NATO. But this will not happen any time soon given the continuing internal unrest in the country and Russian opposition.