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Pentagon to send military advisers to Ukraine

Published time: June 06, 2014 20:10
A Ukrainian Antonov-26 plane burns after it was shot down by a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on June 6, 2014. (AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev)

A Ukrainian Antonov-26 plane burns after it was shot down by a missile launched by pro-Russian separatists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on June 6, 2014. (AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev)

American military advisers will soon arrive in politically fractured Ukraine in a move the Pentagon says is designed to build “defense institutions” in the country, where nationalist forces continue saber-rattling against Russia.

In preparation for the consultations, US defense officials met with Kiev authorities earlier this week to discuss ways how the two countries “could strengthen our long-term defense cooperation to help Ukraine build highly effective armed forces and defense institutions,” Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez said, as quoted by Military Times.

The Pentagon considers sending its military advisers “a first step” toward helping to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through training, education, and assistance.”

“We are committed fully to getting the assistance to Ukraine as quickly as possible,” Lainez said.

Lainez’s statement follows President Barack Obama’s promise earlier this week that the US would provide Kiev additional military help which may include training of its law enforcement and army personnel.

The Pentagon spokeswoman asserted that Washington does not see a military solution to the Ukrainian crisis, after an armed coup forced out its president, Viktor Yanukovich, following Kiev’s decision to put on hold the association agreement with the EU over economic concerns.

“Our focus continues to be on supporting Ukraine economically and diplomatically,” Lainez said. “As the president has said, we do not see a military solution to this crisis. Throughout the review, we’re looking at items with the intent that whatever is approved will stabilize the situation in Ukraine.”

In the meantime, since March, the White House has approved more than $23 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

On June 4, Obama said that the US was providing additional $5 million aid for "the provision of body armor, night vision goggles and additional communications equipment." The White House also said other aid for Ukraine included 300,000 ready-to-eat meals and financing for medical supplies, helmets, hand-held radios and other equipment.

Obama’s pledges to Ukraine, at the same time, came on the heel of his vows to invest $1 billion in stepping up the US military presence in Eastern Europe in order “to defend your territorial integrity”.

READ MORE: Obama pledges $1bn for more troops, military drills in E. Europe

The US President statements came amid the deteriorating political crisis in south-eastern Ukraine, where anti-Kiev protesters seek independence and where intense clashes between self-defense militia and the regime’s troops are now a part of everyday life.